It’s not Wimbledon or Roland-Garros, but the gleaming tennis complex near South High School is going to make every other Colorado racket club look as basic as a game of Pong. When the Denver Tennis Park (DTP) opens on November 1, the $14 million public facility will feature seven indoor and six outdoor courts. The space will also include a large open space for off-court speed and agility drills and a child-development area that can be used for everything from nutrition coaching to strength and conditioning classes. The DTP, in short, will be unlike anything the Centennial State has ever seen—and there’s a reason for that: Tennis is about as popular here as the Oakland Raiders.
In 2017, Colorado produced 278 college football players, 93 college lacrosse players, and 31 college golfers. Only eight kids signed to play tennis. Big-time tournaments won’t come near the state because balls fly farther afield—and screw up players’ touch—at elevation. Even the University of Denver, which has been ranked among the NCAA’s top 25, doesn’t get much love: Previously, DU’s on-campus courts were located on top of a parking garage. (The Pioneers will now practice at the DTP.)
The DTP’s founders, though, plan to boost the sport’s popularity here by bringing the game to the masses. Despite Coloradans’ reputation as fitness freaks, the Colorado Health Foundation reports that about half of the state’s children, many of whom live in low-income households, don’t get the recommended 60 minutes of daily exercise. So while the DTP’s former project manager Julie Bock and executive director Susan Luna modeled the DTP after fancy public tennis centers in Baltimore and San Diego, Bock and Luna didn’t want to cater exclusively to future Andy Roddicks. They view tennis as an affordable way (although the sport is associated with the one percent, a racket, shoes, and balls can run as little as $40) to get kids moving.
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The Gates Family Foundation and the Daniels Fund cut checks to help Bock and Luna fund that mission, and a Denver Public Schools partnership gives them a pathway to reach 1,800 kids on the district’s tennis teams and in its PE classes. Adults can use the courts during designated times, and their admission fees will help subsidize lessons, group programs, and regular court time for at least 1,700 more youths. And that means you’ll soon see far more kids here working on their Serena Williams impressions.