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Archive for Saturday, April 22, 2006

KU tennis team puts First Serve’s courts to use

April 22, 2006

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Frank Polito, assistant coach of the Kansas University women's tennis team, instructs Liza Avdeeva and Ksenia Bukina at First Serve, 5200 Clinton Parkway. The facility used to be part of Sport 2 Sport but now is a tennis venue.

Frank Polito, assistant coach of the Kansas University women's tennis team, instructs Liza Avdeeva and Ksenia Bukina at First Serve, 5200 Clinton Parkway. The facility used to be part of Sport 2 Sport but now is a tennis venue.

Kansas University tennis coach Amy Hall-Holt rotates her glances among three different pairs of her players, who are exchanging volleys during a recent practice.

The Jayhawks have practiced on the three indoor courts at First Serve, 5200 Clinton Parkway, since Feb. 1.

The hustle and the pop of tennis balls on the indoor courts fulfills a lengthy effort of Mike Elwell, a Lawrence tennis enthusiast.

The former district judge and businessman bought the former recreation center in October in his attempt to bring an indoor tennis venue back to Lawrence.

"I think they are pleased about not having to drive to Topeka or Kansas City to practice. The facility turned out pretty great," Stuart Waters, First Serve's director of tennis, said about the Jayhawks.

The team also hosted its first match at First Serve on March 5.

"It's worked out fine. It's a big deal for us because we know that we have a place to go no matter what the weather does," said Jim Marchiony, an associate athletic director at KU.

Elwell bought the former Sport 2 Sport facility and opened First Serve to fill a gap created when Alvamar Country Club sold its indoor tennis center in 2002. Bishop Seabury Academy bought that facility at 4120 Clinton Parkway and now uses it for school.

Sport 2 Sport still operates the two outdoor fields for baseball, softball and T-ball next to First Serve.

Developments at the indoor tennis center are far from complete.

On Feb. 28, the Lawrence City Commission gave a tentative approval to sell about 1.1 acres of land to the east of First Serve to Elwell for $26,000.

Plans could include an exercise facility, an outdoor court and an additional indoor court if KU wants one.

Marchiony said KU had discussed a number of options with Elwell, and at some point they would have more information on the facility's future.

"Over the summer we'd like to have the outdoor tennis court," said Waters, who is a former player at the University of Iowa, where Elwell's son, Scott, plays. "We have a way to go to make this concept finished off."

First Serve already has more than 80 members, Waters said. Members can reserve court time five days in advance.

The center is also open to the public, but those who feel up for a game must call for a reservation that day.

First Serve also offers lessons and a full-clinic program for junior players and adults.

Waters said First Serve's membership numbers reflected enthusiasm from tennis players in the Lawrence area.

"We're just happy to give people a place to play year-round," he said.

Like the Jayhawk tennis team, which had to travel to Topeka and Overland Park for practice, Lawrence tennis players grew tired of doing the same, Elwell said.

"I can't tell you how many people have said they have started playing tennis again. I think it's kind of reinvigorated everybody. Anytime you have a place to play year-round, that makes it more fun," Waters said.

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