Tennis Center swings into gear for public

Karen Bryden's dreams have been saddled, filled with visions about tennis courts with no access.

But Bryden's personal holiday came Monday, with a present that should brighten her dreams: The Tennis Center at Steamboat Springs opened. The center brings tennis back to a community that hasn't been able to play since fall.

"I've been waiting for a long time," Bryden said Monday, after spending a couple of hours on the court. "I am so excited."

The new building on Pine Grove Road replaces the tennis bubble that was adjacent to Ski Town Park. The old bubble's laminate surface was cracking, ripping at the seams and losing its sun protection. The surface probably would not have survived this snowy winter, said Jim Swiggart, the center's concessionaire. Swiggart leases the city-owned facility and manages the center's daily operations.

The new center, once complete, will bring the court total to 16, with two more indoor courts than were available at the former center. The two courts that remain to be built likely will be ready this spring, when a grand opening ceremony will be held.

On Monday, the center's blue courts, which were almost completely booked, were full of people playing under the new, bright lights and shiny ceiling.

Swiggart also was putting up three signs detailing the construction and its progress:

What's new: four cushioned hard indoor courts, handicapped-accessible restrooms, new insulated structure and a viewing deck.

What's coming: two more cushioned indoor courts, court divider netting, deck furniture, court backdrops, tennis computer kiosk with online tennis information and a tennis DVD library.

What's missing: the algae, rain, dust and court debris that were problems at the old center.

Tennis players have had a while to wait. With the exception of some limited play, no courts have been available since mid-September. Officials had anticipated that the new $3 million facility would be constructed and operational before winter, but early snowstorms delayed crews' work to put the structure up.

Another delay was caused by the hurricanes in the Gulf Coast region. Construction crews were about halfway through installing the fabric covering on the support structures over the courts when they were called to Louisiana, Swiggart said.

Officials' intent, Swiggart said, was to have the entire remodel complete and the courts reopened by fall, so tennis players could enjoy continuous service.

"We were all surprised and disappointed that it took so long," Swiggart said. "We're all just delighted to be up and running, and we're looking forward to seeing all of our friends come back."

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