STERLING – It’s looking like tennis is about to rally big time in the Sauk Valley.
There will be an open house Thursday at the Sterling Park District’s $1.7 million Westwood Tennis Center – built almost entirely with donations – then the new facility opens for business bright and early Friday morning.
The project essentially saved Westwood’s Building 2, which was used primarily for tennis until a leaky roof and waning interest in the sport prompted the district to close the building to all but storage in 2010.
An anonymous $600,000 donation in early 2015, however, made it possible for the park district to resurrect the building as a tennis center, and lay the groundwork for an expanded and revitalized program, which will begin with a vengeance in March.
The building, which was stripped to its frame and completely rebuilt, with a new roof, sidewalls, plumbing, HVAC, electrical system and exterior and interior windows, now also features four indoor courts with indirect LED court lights, locker rooms, a lounge, a vestibule, a mechanical room, and, in an addition, office space and restrooms.
Outdoor courts are planned, tentatively for summer 2019, depending on how the program grows, said Jake Lipka, the park district’s new tennis pro.
That growth already is off to a strong start, said Lipka, 22, who’s been on the job about 3 months. He’s the district’s first full-time tennis pro in about 8 years.
“The growth has been huge – our programs are up again like never before,” Lipka said. “With all the high schools around here, it’s really a shock that there hasn’t been more growth.”
Having a pro on site daily, providing lessons and training, is the fuel that will help fire up the new all-ages program, which will be in line with U.S. Tennis Association rules and regulations, Lipka said.
It will feature, among other offerings, individual and group lessons for ages 4 to 18, men’s drills, beginner drills, adult mixed doubles league play and other expanded offerings for adults.
The center also is expected to draw high school tournament play from around the region.
Lipka likely will be a big draw himself: A native of the LaSalle-Peru area, he played tennis all 4 years at Aurora University, where he was an all-conference player while earning his bachelor’s in business administration and marketing, with a minor in coaching.
He also was the school’s head men’s tennis coach, the head pro at the Geneva Country Club, and taught private and group lessons at the Fox Valley Park District’s Vaughan Athletic Center in Aurora.
The Sterling Park District is having an open house for the new Westwood Tennis Center, 1900 Westwood Drive, from 2:30 to 8 p.m. Thursday. There will be a tour at 3 p.m., and demonstrations, clinics and give-aways all day.
Call 815-622-6201 or go to sterlingparks.org for more information.
The three buildings that make up the Westwood sports complex were built in the mid-'70s and acquired by the Sterling Park District in 1991.
Now known as the Westwood Fitness & Sports Center, it has 8,000 square feet of fitness equipment in two buildings, including free weights, Nautilus equipment, stretching areas and a cardio theater at the complex at 1900 Westwood Drive.
There's a 200-meter indoor track, a 60-yard football/soccer field, two batting cages, four indoor racquetball courts, four pickleball courts, a wrestling room, outdoor ball fields, and the Sauk Valley’s largest fitness facility.
CrossFit, basketball and volleyball leagues, and indoor flag football are among its offerings, as are aerobic classes, fitness counseling and equipment orientation.
In August, it was named one of the best sports centers in Illinois by Best of AmericanTowns.
The new Westwood Tennis Center, which opens Friday, will add to the offerings. It features four indoor courts and indirect LED court lights, locker rooms, a lounge, a vestibule, a mechanical room, and, in an addition, office space and restrooms.
It will be open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday, and from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.
Memberships or daily drop-in fees apply.
The spring programs catalog will be available online in March.