Gage Park tennis club builds new winterized dome amid growing demand

Rosedale Tennis Club, which has a long wait list for year-round tennis, is currently building a dome over four more tennis courts, doubling its current indoor capacity.

Growing demand for year-round play has prompted Gage Park’s tennis club to build a new bubble, doubling the number of indoor courts.

The Rosedale Tennis Club, which in 2023 celebrated 100 years of matches at its Lawrence Road location in the popular east-end park, is building a new dome over four more of its outdoor courts, bringing the total number of winterized courts to eight.

“The second seasonal dome will allow more youth programming, adult lessons, group and senior tennis and access for community groups year round,” club manager Vince Ormond said in an email.

Construction is underway with workers now “digging along the perimeter” of the courts to install a foundation wall that will anchor the bubble, he said.

Construction began just before Christmas and is set to be completed in late May or early June.

The project comes with a nationwide push to winterize courts as Canadian interest in the sport grows, especially among youth.

Eleven per cent more kids ages six to 17 played tennis last year compared with 2022, a recent study commissioned by Tennis Canada found. Overall, there’s been a “spike” in interest, with five million Canadians swinging rackets in 2023, the organization said. Tennis was the fifth most-played sport in Canada, after soccer, basketball, golf and hockey, the study found.

Tennis Canada launched in 2022 a partnership with Rogers to build 160 new year-round courts by 2029. To date, indoor courts have been built at six facilities, including the Ancaster Tennis Club.

For the last decade, Rosedale has been “setting aside funds to go toward the growing sport” and improving the club, whose goal is “inclusive and affordable community tennis,” Ormond said.

The club has allocated more than $900,000, in addition to a loan of about $1.2 million from the city, to be repaid over 15 years.

The club is also looking for sponsors to offset costs.

The city received early last year a request from the club for a loan to build a new dome “for the purpose of increasing tennis opportunities for Hamilton youth, families, seniors, local schools and other community groups,” reads a city report.

Since the club operates at Gage Park, it is eligible for an interest-free loan with “rigorous” guidelines, including provisions for one-time projects that “benefit the community at large,” Hamilton’s manager of budgets and fiscal policy Kirk Weaver said in an email.

Rosedale and other sports organizations, including Dundas, Ancaster, Stoney Creek, Huntington, Carlisle, and Hilltop and Hamilton tennis clubs, operate under municipal licence agreements that prioritize organizations that provide “community benefit,” Hamilton recreation acting director Steve Sevor said in an email.

“The construction of additional covered courts was prompted by community demands for tennis,” Ormond said.

Demand at Rosedale began to rise in 2015. For several years, there has been a wait-list for year-round membership of more than 300 names, as well as “continued pressure” for youth programming, he said. 

The club has more than 700 summer and 375 year-round members from ages five into their late 80s who play tennis, a “lifelong” sport, Ormond said, as well as a staff of 12 and a volunteer board of directors.

Ormond says recent interest is due in part to the success of Canadian players like Mississauga’s Bianca Andreescu. Several of the club’s own players compete locally, nationally and internationally.

Article by Kate McCullough

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