SURREY — The sound of more than a million bouncing tennis balls made a racket, so to speak, at a new tennis facility over the weekend.
The 42-hour marathon session, an unofficial world record for the longest and largest tennis practice, was organized to celebrate the opening of Surrey Tennis Centre, on 144th Street near the old city hall.
Off and on for nearly two straight days, close to 150 players hit balls under a bubble dome that covers six of the facility’s 12 courts.
“There was a big celebration in the clubhouse when we realized we hit the record,” said Derek Wallensteen, director of adult and recreational programs at the centre.
On Monday, he had a raspy voice from a lack of sleep and from playing all that tennis.
“I’m drinking a lot of tea right now, and I was up for 48 hours,” he said with a laugh. “It’s definitely not something I’ve experienced before. It was a cool weekend, and it was great to have some members of the public we weren’t expecting to come out – that was nice, and people are definitely recognizing that we have a different tennis facility than most.”
The centre features a gym, a training academy and six outdoor courts made of cushiony red clay – a rarity in Canada’s western provinces.
Six years in the planning, the $2.5 million facility is built on a 17,000-square-metre piece of leased land owned by the city, as part of a private-public partnership.
“We have another five or so acres of land available, on the back side of the facility, that will be for Phase 2,” Wallensteen noted, “so we’ve modeled ourselves as operating one of the largest tennis facilities in North America, and it won’t be just tennis, it will be multi-sport,” with an indoor basketball facility also in the works.
Construction of the centre was spearheaded by Larry Jurovich, who sought to capitalize on a need for tennis courts – especially indoor courts – in Surrey.
Jurovich taught Wallensteen the game when the latter was a 12-year-old living in Nanaimo. Today, Wallensteen is an instructor at the centre he helped plan and build.
“When he (Jurovich) looked at Surrey and how fast it’s growing, and that it didn’t have any indoor tennis courts, to him it was a no-brainer,” Wallensteen said. “And where it’s located, it will allow for huge pieces of the Lower Mainland to access us.”
Monday (Nov. 30) marked the first day the public could book a court at the centre.
“We haven’t been able to offer that yet, with a soft opening over the past couple of months and with some program work happening on the courts,” Wallensteen said.
“The reaction has been really solid,” he added, “and we’ve actually had to turn down some bookings in recent weeks and months because we weren’t able to do that yet. We have people in the system, and now it’s a fully functioning tennis centre, and people seem to like what we’re able to offer them.”
Last weekend’s tennis marathon raised funds to help Relate Community Care build a new “Dream Centre” locally.