Pro shop coming to city’s tennis center

HARLINGEN — It’s going to be a grand slam for the city’s tennis players.

For nine years, a modular building has served as headquarters for the HEB Tennis Center.

Soon, a pro shop featuring restrooms will stand at the site of 14 lighted tennis courts at Pendleton Park.

“Once we get the building, we’ll be back on the map,” Don VanRamhorst, the center’s manager, said yesterday.

Earlier this week, city commissioners approved a proposal to earmark about $500,000 to build a roughly 2,000-square-foot pro shop.

The pro shop is expected to include features such as restrooms, retail displays and a snack bar.

The city will use money remaining from a 2001 bond issue to fund the project.

Commissioners selected the project over construction of a welcome center at Hugh Ramsey Nature Park.

From the audience, Colleen Kimbriel argued a pro shop would help draw more tennis tournaments to town.

“Tennis brings in professional tennis players from all parts of the world,” Kimbriel, whose children play at the center, told commissioners Wednesday night. “They spend money in Harlingen and stay in hotels. We need to make a good impression with our tennis center.”

Amid heated debate, City Commissioner Richard Uribe argued the center was not drawing enough players to justify the project’s price tag.

Last year, about 9,000 residents played the courts, Javier Mendez, the city’s parks director, said.

But Commissioner Tudor Uhlhorn said a new pro shop would help draw more players to the center.

“The pro shop has not been replaced and that has a lot of bearing as to why the usage has gone down,” Uhlhorn said. “If you go to a community our size, they’ll have a very, very nice tennis pro shop.”

Uhlhorn argued the project was long overdue.

“This was supposed to be done nine years ago,” Uhlhorn said.

What happened?

When the city renovated the tennis center in 2009, crews razed the center’s old pro shop.

While original plans called for a new pro shop, cost-cutting steps led the city to delay its construction.

Without a pro shop, some residents have stopped playing the courts, Uhlhorn said.

Tournament draw

Yesterday, VanRamhorst said a new pro shop will help bring more tournaments to town.

In recent years, he said, the tennis center has helped bring about seven tournaments to town, each drawing about 200 players and parents.

But the new pro shop could draw about three more tournaments, VanRamhorst said.

For the past nine years, some tournaments have moved to other cities because the modular building lacks enough restrooms, VanRamhorst said.

For example, the United States Tennis Association, which sanctions some tournaments, requires facilities to have men’s and women’s restrooms.

But at Pendleton Park, the tennis center’s modular building’s single restroom has one toilet, VanRamhorst said.

“I’ve lost sanctioned tournaments in the last year,” he said.

Tennis hangout

VanRamhorst said the number of high school players has dropped because the modular building is too small.

Under the summer heat, he said, that building lacks room to give players a place to cool off.

“The numbers have dropped because there’s no place for kids to hang out,” he said.

Mendez said the pro shop’s construction is expected to be complete about late 2019.