It might not spawn the next Eugenie Bouchard or Milos Raonic but Coun. Brian Mayes believes the City of Winnipeg is serving up a solution to its tennis court problem.
The St. Vital city politician said plans to build a new court this fall at Le Centre scolaire Léo-Rémillard, a French high school on St. Anne's Road, might be just the beginning of a mini resurgence in tennis in Winnipeg.
Depending on the demand and usage, he said it's possible to expand with one or more additional courts as there is plenty of space on the school's large playing field.
Also on the docket this year are the repaving of four courts with Plexipave, an acrylic-based hard-court surface, at River Heights Community Centre, four more at Alex Bridge Park in Fort Richmond and two in McFadyen Park near the legislature grounds. Norwood Community Centre also recently received a new court.
"There are a lot of recreation facilities in the city but tennis seems to have been left out of the equation. It's not the No. 1 priority by any means but we're trying to keep people active. This can be part of that," he said.
The $80,000 court at Léo-Rémillard can also be used for pickle ball, a sport growing in popularity among seniors in the U.S. that uses a tennis net, a Wiffle ball and essentially a large ping-pong paddle. The court's cost is being split between the city and the province.
Last summer, Mark Arndt, executive director of Tennis Manitoba, called the city out, saying of its 130 courts around Winnipeg, only 24 were usable. On Thursday, he called the expansion at Léo-Rémillard "fantastic" but hoped it's part of a long-term plan.
"We don't want to see a Band-Aid solution. Spending the money right now is great, but the big thing is setting aside a part of the budget for maintaining the courts," he said.
Maintenance could be as simple as ensuring the debris is swept off the courts on a regular basis from the spring through the fall, he said.
When pebbles get kicked on to a court, for example, the sun can cause little craters in the surface, which then collect more dirt and grime, making the courts slippery and unsafe, he said.
Another key is ensuring the courts are resurfaced with Plexipave rather than asphalt.
"I'd rather have 20 usable, properly resurfaced courts than (more than 100 that aren't.) With asphalt, it starts to deteriorate after a couple of years just like our roads. We want the courts to be preserved for 20 or 30 years," he said.
Mayes said he's confident city courts will get more use as kids get excited about Bouchard and Raonic, who had breakthrough tournaments at Wimbledon last week.
They are now both ranked in the top 10 internationally.
Some reduction in the number of city courts is also likely, he said, as Dakota Collegiate is planning to take out its four asphalt courts to make way for an expanded athletic field.