by John Young
The UDC tennis courts are now open to members of the public who register for the Firebirds Community Access Tennis Program.
The new program includes:
A $200 annual membership fee, which covers the entire household. (According to UDC, members will pay $100 twice a year, the first covering the six months through August, the second payment for the September through February period.)
Online court registration. UDC is using CourtReserve, based on a community member’s research and recommendation.
Electronic or code access to the courts. UDC President Ron Mason committed to community access to the tennis courts even if UDC staff is not on campus.
Expanded and predictable court hours. Courts will be open to students, community members, and clinics “from dusk to dawn” according to Mason, with priority to students and tennis team.
The lights will be turned on. UDC committed to working with ANC 3F and community members on getting the new tennis court lights reauthorized for use.
To register for the program, complete the membership form on the Courtreserve portal. Then print, sign and mail in this disclosure form along with a check written out to the University of the District of Columbia. Email firstname.lastname@example.org with questions.
While this proposal is a great start, there is more to do to make the program a success, including ensuring efficient scheduling and access to the courts when the UDC tennis team, students, faculty, clinics, and members of the community want to play. Specifically:
It will be important to implement a robust scheduling and court access system. The purpose of having a reservation system is to manage court time when UDC staff is not available. One of the hindrances of the pilot program was the clunky requirement of 24-hour advance reservations, and to have UDC staff physically open and close the courts. The online reservation system should address this problem.
Available court time should be maximized by opening courts early and activating the lights for evening play. A lesson from the pilot has been that for working professionals and families, the opening hours were too limited and often unpredictable. It was almost impossible for them to play from 10-4 on weekdays. Off-peak use will be facilitated by using a solid reservation and access system.
The local tennis community needs to be rebuilt. Before courts closed in 2008, there was a vibrant Van Ness tennis community that played in the evenings and on the weekends. Many new families and businesses have come to the neighborhood since then, and there is a real opportunity to rebuild that sense of community. One suggestion, by Van Ness Main Street and community members, is to sponsor a tennis tournament and work closely with UDC leaders in promoting the use of the tennis courts and the accessibility of the UDC campus as a partner in the community.
To measure interest in potential membership, the community has initiated a sign-up sheet where people can express their interest in joining. There are now well over one hundred people on this list, in addition to the one hundred residents who signed up for the original pilot program.
The new program was spearheaded by Council member Mary Cheh. Earlier this year, Cheh facilitated a virtual meeting with Council Chair Phil Mendelson, ANC 3F commissioner David Cristeal, UDC President Mason, his staff, and members of the community.
The meeting addressed next steps after the December 2021 expiration of the three-month UDC tennis courts pilot program that allowed the community to try the courts and provide feedback for a permanent and user-friendly community tennis program. Community members, which included Van Ness Main Street and tennis players from throughout Ward 3, provided feedback on the pilot program and recommendations on how UDC students, staff, and community members could better use the five tennis courts.
And now, we look forward to an active spring tennis season in Van Ness.