The Sarah Vande Berg (SVB) Tennis & Wellness Center in Zephyrhills has sights on a major expansion to significantly enhance its tennis offerings and also establish a boarding program — all of which may run upwards of $20 million, when all is said and done.
The existing tennis center situated on 10 acres of land at 6585 Simons Road already has garnered much attention for its present slew of amenities, including:
- 11 regulation-size outdoor tennis courts (nine clay surface, two hard surface)
- Eight outdoor pickleball courts
- Four outdoor padel courts
- Outdoor multipurpose turf field
- Nearly 8,000-square-foot indoor clubhouse, featuring a full-service restaurant/cafe, fitness center, salt room, yoga room, cryotherapy chamber and pro shop
But, the center could be broadening its reach through an expansion that would be funded by a state appropriation, private investments and financing.
Preliminary details and various renderings were announced during a special presentation at the facility on Feb. 25.
Perhaps of greatest interest to the general public are proposals to nearly double its tennis offering by installing 10 more courts.
This would include six outdoor regulation hard surface tennis courts, plus a 30,000-square-foot multi-use indoor sports complex with room for four full-size tennis courts, as well as other athletic events, trade shows, banquets and ceremonies.
A nearly $4.7 million state appropriation for the slate of courts is being sponsored by state Sen. Danny Burgess, a Republican from Zephyrhills.
Besides helping to stimulate Pasco’s economy, the initiative would “provide access to low-income residents and children, as well as to provide athletic tournaments and events to east Pasco,” according to the state funding proposal.
If approved in the 2021 state budget, funding would become available around July, with expectations to begin construction by September or October, said Pascal Collard, the CEO of the SVB Tennis & Wellness Center.
Plans call for a half-dozen hard courts to be built on the northeast corner of the tennis center property, while the multi-use complex would be situated on another adjacent 10-acre tract of land southeast of Simons Road purchased by Collard and other private investors a few months ago.
Collard emphasized the need for the court additions during the presentation, citing the facility’s rampant demand since opening October 2020, even in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic: “We have days where there’s a waiting list. We have days where there’s not enough space on the parking lot. We are already too small. We are, literally. There are moments where we don’t have enough courts,” he said, during the special presentation on the proposed expansion.
Adding an indoor component is particularly important, too, Collard said, noting, “sometimes it rains, sometimes it’s too warm for the kids” to play tennis and other sporting activities.
An international sports boarding program?
Aside from further beefing up tennis offerings, Collard and other private investors are pursuing financing to establish an international residential sports academy and boarding program — similar to a scaled-down version Bradenton’s IMG Academy and Wesley Chapel’s Saddlebrook Preparatory School.
The concept calls for an assortment of phased-in student condos, dormitories and houses on the adjacent land tract that would eventually accommodate from 60 to 80 international students. That would be called the Sarah Vande Berg Learning Village.
A shared master plan rendering shows a dormitory building, 31 individual 1,500-square-foot homes and a three-story condo building with nine two-bedroom units and nine one-bedroom units, with walkable or rideable connections to the present tennis center.
Renderings also show the learning village subdivision is slated to feature a community center, pool, park, playground, community garden, and pond and fountain, among other outdoor and recreational features.
Here’s how the sports academy would work: International and out-of-state students would train and reside at the tennis center properties, then get bussed to North Tampa Christian Academy in Wesley Chapel for a more traditional academic setting, Collard said. The academy also would offer training and development packages for youth golfers and soccer players, Collard said, through partnerships with Dade City’s Lake Jovita Golf and Country Club, and Florida Premier FC.
Depending on the amount of amenities and programs (boarding, meals, sports training, academics), costs could run anywhere from $50,000 to $70,000 annually per visiting student, Collard said.
Meanwhile, he added, there will be opportunities for area-based youth to enroll in various portions of the sports academy, while still living at home. Various sports academy scholarships also will be made available for Zephyrhills area youth through the Sarah Vande Berg Tennis Foundation, he said.
“This is going to enhance what we’re trying to do here for the kids,” Collard said. “We went to be special and different, and bringing some stuff to the table that nobody has, and that’s truly what we’re doing with everything. We want to create an atmosphere that kids are loving…”
Collard acknowledged the boarding program initiative is “not a done deal yet,” though he noted that multiple banks are interested in taking on the project.
Collard indicated initial investment for the boarding campus may be in the ballpark of $10 million to $15 million.
The proposed project also has an ambitious timeline. The idea is to open a portion of the boarding program in conjunction with the multi-use complex around September 2022, he said.
Benefits of the expansion, as outlined in the presentation, include: raising the city’s regional and national profile; additional tax revenue and increased property values (projected up to 15% or more); and, providing a valuable community resource; and, introducing a diverse international presence to Zephyrhills.
The existing $4.9 million Sarah Vande Berg Tennis & Wellness Center is a public-private partnership between Collard and the City of Zephyrhills. The municipality owns the facility while Collard’s company, Tennis Pro Florida LLC, is tasked with management and day-to-day operations.
The facility is named after Sarah Vande Berg, a former Zephyrhills High School district champion and three-time state qualifier who died in an automobile accident in South Carolina at the age of 21, on Oct. 11, 2015, while a member of the University of South Carolina-Upstate women’s tennis team.
Collard and his team were responsible for leveraging connections and forging partnerships with individuals and organizations to bring aboard some of the facility’s splashier features — such as the salt room, cryotherapy, and restaurant. The city — with the help of a state appropriation and other impact fees — funded the tennis portion of the facility.
Collard brings a varied tennis background, having founded other academies in his native Belgium, and being a former tennis director at Saddlebrook Resort in Wesley Chapel and The Merion Cricket Club, in Haverford, Pennsylvania.
His professional coaching resume includes working with several widely known international tennis pros, including Younes El Aynaoui and Dominique Monami, among others.
Published March 24, 2021