The iconic Port Washington Tennis Academy is under new ownership with the purpose of revitalizing the tennis facility after years of decline, starting with the addition of the hottest new sport: pickleball.
“It’s gonna be a jewel in the community once again,” Joe Siegel, managing director for Sportime, said.
The tennis academy was started by the Zausner family in 1966 and managed by them until Sportime bought the facility. Sportime is the largest operator of tennis and sports clubs in New York.
Sportime has been managing the facility since last year on behalf of the previous owners, until the sale was finalized about two weeks ago.
Tennis legends including John and Patrick McEnroe, Vitas Gerulaitis and Mary Carillo previously trained at the facility.
Under the new ownership, Siegel said the goal is to diversify the academy’s programming in order “to give people the best opportunities and to play on the best courts.”
Siegel said the facility is in the midst of a $7 million renovation, which started with the conversion of four tennis courts into six pickleball courts and two hybrid pickleball and tennis courts in October. The facility now has 13 tennis courts, up from 17.
Other renovations include replacing the roof, insulation and adding bathrooms.
Siegel said the renovations for the entire facility should be completed in five months.
The pickleball courts were the first step in the renovations. No further renovations have been started at this time.
He said prior to the pickleball courts being established, the tennis courts were underutilized and not in great condition.
“Now we brought them back to life,” Siegel said.
He said pickleball is the fastest growing sport in the country, due in part to its easiness to learn. The facility was inspired to expand to cater to the growing demand.
“From 21 to 71, they’re always looking for things to do,” Siegel said. “[Pickleball] is something that’s a great exercise, it’s fairly low cost and it’s incredibly social.”
He said the pickleball courts are in high demand, with courts fully booked every weekend.
Courts can be reserved in advance by members for individual usage, instruction, open play and events, which includes tournaments.
He said pickleball events have been a huge success. Their most recent event was held on March 11 for St. Patrick’s Day and about 60 people attended with a dozen on the waitlist.
“There’s been a lot of players that have been saying, ‘Where are the pickleball courts in our community?’ Now they have them,” Siegel said. “And not only do they have them, but these are the best courts in the community.”
He said the tennis facility’s decision to offer pickleball is taking the academy, which was one of the first premier tennis academies in the States, ahead of the curve again to become a premier racquet sports facility.
While pickleball is generating a big buzz, helping to revitalize the facility that had been in decline over the previous years, Siegel said “tennis is still king” and they are working to bring enthusiasm back for the sport.
He said that the tennis academy has been a historical part of the Port Washington community and the broader tennis community, and many people are excited about its revitalization. He said it’s rewarding to see the passion come back into the community.
“I think a lot of people in the community were probably concerned at some point that maybe this facility would no longer be here,” Siegel said. “I think the fact that the facility is remaining tennis and it’s servicing all these kids in the community, that it’s servicing adults whose kids are now playing, I think there’s something kind of special for them. I think the whole concept of bringing the past into the future and then adding this new component, which is sweeping the nation, is going to make this place the best place to play.”