Growing Platform Tennis in Atlanta:
Installing Platform Tennis Courts and Building a Program at RCS
The Racquet Club of the South
6350 Courtside Drive
Atlanta, GA 30092
Prepared by Steve Gareleck,
Table of Contents
Platform Tennis in Atlanta
The Racquet Club of the South (RCS)
The Plan for Platform Tennis at RCS
Atlanta Platform Court Map
Steve Gareleck, the new owner/operator of the Racquet Club of the South (RCS), a large, semi-public indoor / outdoor tennis facility in a northeastern suburb of Atlanta, seeks to build a platform tennis program as part of his strategic overhaul of this once proud and impressive facility. Steve is well known in Atlanta as both a successful entrepreneur and most recently the owner of the first private (backyard) platform tennis court and “Whale Bar” in town.
RCS was built and boomed in the early ‘70s as an extraordinary tennis facility with 8 indoor and 21 outdoor courts, including a stadium court, plus pool, casual dining, bar, gym and pro-shop. At its peak there were some 1100 members, but the club has been in decline for years, to a low last summer of 200ish members. Steve stepped in to “buy” the operating rights from the non-profit foundation of the Southern Division of the USTA, which owns the land (22 acres). Since September, Steve and team have begun a significant refurbishment of the physical plant and a very creative set of initiatives to rebuild the programmatic side of the club, with heavy USTA involvement, and which by all measures is succeeding – a feat many thought not possible.
RCS respectfully seeks a grant of $20,000 from the American Platform Tennis Association (APTA) to help fund the purchase and construction of 2 (used) courts, surrounding grounds (with space for 4) and a pavilion structure, which we plan to have in place for the upcoming season (‘09/’10). We will launch a paddle program and offer a paddle & gym membership option, to include membership in the APTA. Our next hire as we grow our tennis pro staff will be a dual paddle / tennis person, the first in Atlanta.
We will work closely with the very successful Peachtree Paddle League that Peter Lauer runs, and the PPL has committed to a (modest) financial contribution as well. We will field a team and schedule League matches on our new courts, which will be the 6th & 7th in Atlanta. We are excited by this opportunity and plan to act quickly. We very much hope the APTA will be our partner and bet with us in this worthy endeavor, which will accelerate the growth of the sport in Atlanta.
Platform Tennis in Atlanta
TENNIS: Atlanta, a city of 5M people with the busiest airport in the world, is also home to the largest tennis league and playing population in the country, called ALTA, with 80-100K players (all doubles). At the same time, every other national tennis league is active here (USTA, T2, KSwiss). Wilson reports that Atlanta is their best tennis market in North America and their head of sales, Jeffery Adams, is actually based here.
There is a seemingly bottomless reservoir of tennis talent including former tour players and a “Pro-League” of some 60 of the best men who still compete (for fun). There are numerous / massive public and semi public tennis venues all over the city, though very few indoor courts. Virtually every subdivision has at least 2 tennis courts, the minimum required to host an ALTA team. No one seems to know how many tennis courts there are.
PLATFORM TENNIS: In 2004, Peter Lauer, another Yankee transplant to Atlanta, with great help from the APTA, staged an exhibition on an old wreck of a paddle court (known by the locals as the pig pen) at the Ansley Golf Club. (Legend has it that Scott Bondurant was actually responsible for having acquired this court years before when he lived in Atlanta). At the time there were actually 2 old and largely unused courts, both in midtown Atlanta, and in serious need of repair. The Piedmont Driving Club had an old aluminum RJ Reilly court, also acquired, used, in the 1970s. Neither club had a paddle program of any kind, nor teaching pros, lessons, etc. Each club had a few loyal players, though all were local and had no real sense of Platform Tennis on a national scale.
A year later, and with great help from Taylor Bowen, Peter formed the Peachtree Paddle League http://www.peachtreepaddle.org/ with the stated mission to grow the sport of Platform Tennis in the Atlanta area. Four years, 4 tournaments, 4 league championships, 3 exhibitions and 3 videos (directed by Rem Reynolds) later, Atlanta has 6 (coed) teams with 160 paying League players, an interactive website, 12 sponsors (including Wilson), a $12,000 operating budget, 3 brand new courts (Cherokee Town & Country Club in Buckhead with 2, Steve Gareleck with 1 at his home), and a 4th new on the way (replacing the Piedmont Driving Club court which was slated for permanent removal), plus a refurbished court at Ansley, (and the Whale Bar overlooking the private court), a distribution list of nearly 800 people, 6 of 10 Region VII PC players, and a dozen of the best tennis players in the city now playing paddle.
We have active discussions and explicit interest expressed at the Board level with 3 clubs (Druid Hills CC, Dunwoody CC and Racquet Club of the South). We’ve had preliminary discussions with at least 4 other venues.
There is no reason (including weather) why paddle cannot grow to be huge in Atlanta, and someday host the Nationals, following in the inspired footsteps of Chicago.
Critical to the continued growth of the sport in Atlanta (and underway to varying degrees), are:
Converting tennis players, with a target toward the high end players
Finding still more of the northern transplants who love paddle
Building more courts at more different venues spread around the city
Enabling easy, public (non country club) play
Teaching the teachers with PPTA help
Engaging more “points of light” – enthusiastic paddle “doers” (like Steve Gareleck & Rem Reynolds along Tim Sullivan, Jamie Dockter, Bob Stratton, Robert Watkins, Erik Becker and others)
Getting more women onto the court
Building a kids program
The Racquet Club of the South
The Racquet Club of the South (“RCS”), soon to officially be a not-for-profit club, with the lease to be owned by the National Tennis Foundation, was in the 1970s the premier tennis venue in greater Atlanta, and many people say the entire Southest. It was remarkable both for its size and scale (22 acres / 29 courts, 8 of them indoor and other facilities and amenities, as well as its affordability and egalitarian & affordable membership. In fact, it was and is known as the “friendly” club in the area – a perfect fit for the paddle culture we think. Much like a “local swim club”, anyone can join.
Family initiation is $100 - $400 (depending on when you join and which programs you elect), with monthly dues ranging from $49 to $147, depending on the type of membership and whether single or family, and the club offers senior discounts. We even have a category of membership specific to juniors ($20 /mo.) Guest fees are $10.
We have a great staff, an increasingly reengaged membership, and a new and proactive board. Our adult and junior clinics are filled with both members and non-members. The 21 outdoor and 8 indoor courts get the most play of any club in the area.
We are also pleased to note that the Racquet Club of the South was just named a regional training facility for the USTA (the 2nd in the country – the 1st is in DC). We have one of the largest junior tennis programs in the country and are installing quick start tennis courts. With over 200 juniors playing at the club on a regular basis, and thousands more being exposed to the club through the high performance training programs done throughout the year, as well as the many tournaments played at the club, Paddle courts and a program will get an incredible amount of exposure to the tennis community.
The Plan for Paddle at RCS
Construction (Phase I – Spring/Summer ‘09) – Purchase 2 used courts, grade the site (for 4 courts – see aerial), construct 2 courts along with surrounding deck work, paths, landscaping, electrical and a pavilion structure.
Funding - Along with the APTA & PPL contributions, the Racquet Club of the South and the National Tennis Foundation (a not for profit established February ’09 to support programs at RCS) will contribute the balance of funds necessary to complete the construction and implement the paddle program.
Expected total investment for Phase I is $80,000.
Programs – RCS has a group of paddle enthusiasts with whom we have socialized the notion of platform courts and a program, and who are quite excited & supportive of the idea. They have seen the progress at the club since September ’08 and are becoming believers in the future. The pro-staff as well has embraced the idea (see Grant Stafford’s letter below - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grant_Stafford).
The Staff and Board views paddle as a complimentary sport and another value adding activity for the continued success of the newly energized RCS. We will seek PPTA training and certification for our entire pro-staff and intend to make our next (pro) hire a combination paddle & tennis professional from the north, for which we have already begun preliminary interviews.
With the advice and guidance of clubs with successful programs elsewhere, we will organize clinics, private lessons, socials, and interclubs and will be a site for play at the 5th Annual Peachtree Invitational NRT in January ’10. We are also working on a winter tennis exhibition which we would combine into a joint paddle event.
We will also become a site for play each week with the Peachtree Paddle League and plan to organize an RCS team with Remington Reynolds as likely Captain.
RCS will offer a limited paddle & gym only membership for which membership in the APTA will be part of the (modest) initiation fee. Existing club members (currently 300) who seek to use the new platform venue will be asked and encouraged to join the APTA.
Letter from RCS Tennis Director
6350 Courtside Drive
Norcross, GA 30092
I am a part owner of the Racquet Club of the South here in Atlanta, and have seen the club grow in all kinds of ways. Probably the most significant one; the club’s membership once was mostly senior members, where as now we have a well balanced membership with many young junior members joining every day. As we were named one of the two regional training facilities by the USTA, we have one of the best and largest junior programs in the country, with almost 200 kids. We have 30 home school kids that are here all day. Starting in August 2009, we are going to have an accredited private school here at the club with a full academic program (teachers on site, lunch program etc.).
RCS has one of the largest, most diverse tennis programs in the United States. We also host many tournaments, and would have a grand opening of the paddle courts with a tournament in the first week of December with the Brian bothers and some of the other top players in the United States (at the same time we have the Australian Open Wild Card event with Isner and other top US players who did not make it directly into the main draw of the Australian Open). Australia gives one wild card to the United States, where a tournament is played and the winner receives the wild card). We have over 20 other tournaments a year ranging from Level One is mostly a local tournament with around 250 kids participating, while the other is a National Southern Open BG’s 18s Championships with a full 320 participants.
I am new to platform tennis, having only played it twice but already enjoy it, and can see how much fun it will be to play on at RCS. I believe a number of our members will fall in love with Platform Tennis once we have courts here. Our Indoor Tennis Courts are packed in the winter which leaves a number of players playing tennis in the cold outside with the tennis ball not bouncing well. With Platform Tennis Court, I am sure a number of them will take to it pretty rapidly. I personally will be very interested in learning the game and eventually would like to get certified to be an instructor.
I believe the tennis staff here at RCS will be able to help make Platform Tennis a hit in the Atlanta area. Platform is only offered at a few private clubs in Atlanta that are extremely expensive to get in, and that have limited access, plus a single private court at Steve Gareleck’s house about 15 minutes away from the club, we would be the only affordable club where anyone could play. I may be a little biased to this since I love the club, the membership, and people I work with and can clearly see why we are the best club in the area to promote Platform Tennis. I am looking forward to seeing some Platform Courts at RCS next winter.
Thank you for the opportunity,
RCS Tennis Director
Retired Tour Player
Atlanta Platform Court Map
As of May 2009 there are 4 platform courts in Atlanta, with a 5th approved and scheduled for construction at the Piedmont Driving Club in the Fall of ’09 (as a replacement court and part of their club reconstruction).
1at Ansley Golf Club (Midtown)
1 at Piedmont Driving Club (Midtown)
2 at Cherokee Town Club (Buckhead – near north)
1 at Gareleck Private Court (Sandy Springs – north)
2 (proposed) at RCS (far northeast)
2 (under consideration / footers built) at Druid Hills (east)
2 (under consideration / site selected) at Dunwoody (northeast)
Atlanta map showing current and future courts
RCS Platform Court Site Plan
The paddle courts (superimposed on the existing property’s aerial view, are circled at the bottom right). We will use sloping land that is currently vacant, and is located next to a driveway and is also accessible from an existing access way between tennis courts. The pavilion will provide open air covered space with seating and viewing, based upon the positive experience that Cherokee Town Club has had with similar (a closed in warming hut is not as necessary given Atlanta’s mild climate). The indoor court area also contains a bar and casual dining which will provide a natural après paddle draw that is such a part of paddle tradition.
Aerial view of RCS with 4 paddle courts superimposed
Main building with locker rooms, restaurant, bar, fireplace, workout facility etc.