The Rome Tennis Center of Georgia at Berry College is expected to have a significant impact on the community when it opens next summer.
With a longstanding history as of one of the nation’s great tennis towns, Rome, Ga., is embracing a nearly $12 million project that allows for up to 60 regulation courts and a 3,846 sq. ft. (357.3 sq m) clubhouse. The Rome Tennis Center of Georgia at Berry College is expected to have a significant impact on the community when it opens next summer.
“We routinely host a large number of tournaments, however our largest existing facility consists of 16 courts,” said Sammy Rich, Rome city manager. “To host large-scale tournaments, we are stretched all over our county and must rely upon access to others tennis courts, which displaces local play. The Rome Tennis Center will enable us to host more and larger tournaments at one location.”
The Rome Tennis Center was recently selected to host the USTA Southern Jr. Team Tennis Section Championships as its opening tournament in August 2016. This is the first time the regional tourney has been held in the state of Georgia.
The Center is centrally located between Atlanta, Chattanooga and Birmingham, which organizers describe as a convenient destination for tournaments. The design features 51 USTA standard courts, including six NCAA regulation courts, three center courts for tournament and collegiate play and one exhibition court that can accommodate seating for 2,000 people.
The project also takes advantage of the natural topography. The master plan incorporates streams and wetlands over a significant drop in elevation across 30.76 acres. The terraced design exceeds ADA requirements and does not include any stairs.
According to Charles Parrish, New South Construction Company Inc. project manager, “The site has been cleared and the erosion control measures have been installed. We’re just starting the mass grading operations. We expect to start the courts within a month.”
Parrish said building the new structure involves one specific challenge.
“While the systems and materials used in construction of asphalt tennis courts are not unique on their own, the use of these materials under tighter than typical tolerances to meet the intended use requires attention to the details and tight quality control. This means a high quality of workmanship is required throughout the process, and careful consideration of the effect of the external environmental conditions — which are largely out of our control — are monitored to ensure proper end results.”
Two retention ponds have already been completed and are functional. Crews will cut and fill approximately 165,000 cu. yds. (126,151.5 cu m) of dirt on the project, which will be a four-tiered site.
“Instead of the site being relatively flat, there will be steps in the elevations, so that the courts will be on slightly different levels as you look across the site,” Parrish said. “This will allow a bird’s eye view from the club house, and also minimizes costs by working as close to the natural site elevations as possible. To do this, we simply have to grade out each level at its elevation.
“The existing change in elevation on the site from the highest point to the lowest point is about 80 feet. This is the reason for the tiers on the site. Since there are such changes in elevations, it’s most economical to work with the existing conditions in lieu of trying to make the whole site flat. At its completion, there will still be about 80 feet difference in elevations from the highest and lowest point, but there will be large flat areas where the courts and buildings can be placed.”
Parrish said completion of the grading and underground utilities are the next large components to be finished. The next, and also the largest, are the tennis courts themselves. Crews will then complete the clubhouse, which will serve as the centerpiece for the facility.
Equipment being used on the job includes a wide range of earth moving and excavation machinery for the site improvements. Workers also will have asphalt equipment and concrete related equipment on hand.
“With the large amount of exterior work, weather is probably the largest factor in our success,” Parrish said. “To date, we have had fairly favorable weather, and hope it continues through the fall months such that progress can continue. So far, we have been very fortunate and have the start of a very successful project.
“The site was in good condition and required only that it be cleared and stripped to be able to start mass grading activities. The tennis courts and the site work will be the most time-consuming single activities. The tennis courts will be the most dynamic part of the work as they have multiple components, which, in the end, have tight controls to ensure they meet the specifications and final intended function.”
The first phase is planned to be completed by June 2016. As for how building tennis courts differs from other projects, “In this case this is a large site and requires and lot more earthwork than an average project that doesn’t cover this amount of acreage,” said Parrish. “The tennis courts themselves are mostly materials that are used on other projects, but the tolerances and tight specifications make it unique.
“The clubhouse work is a fairly typical wood frame construction with nice architectural elements,” Parrish said. “The slab work will start as grading is completed in the coming months and will continue into spring 2016.
The clubhouse features an expansive viewing deck that overlooks the terraced courts. All the courts will be lighted with shade cabanas.
“One key element of the clubhouse is the 2,256 square-foot tennis porch that overlooks main event courts and NCAA-regulation courts. You have to visit the site to appreciate the spectacular, panoramic view that will be afforded from the porch,” said Rich.
In addition, 12 of the regular courts will be painted with quick-start lines to accommodate “10 and under” tennis courts. The move is an effort to introduce the sport to area youngsters.
“Just as baseball has little league and football has a pee wee league, it is important that children be introduced to tennis in a way that makes for a more enjoyable experience,” Rich said. “As children continue to develop, they are able to move up to regulation size courts when their skill and physical abilities allows, just like with other sports. Additionally, we feel it is important to continue to grow and attract new participants to the sport. As such, we have recently seen the introduction of ’teach me tennis’ within our local schools.
Rich said the design also allows for future development of several NCAA-regulation indoor tennis courts.
“We are currently exploring all options for fund raising to build a six-court indoor facility. We feel having the indoor facility would enable us to attract even more tournaments that could be afforded an opportunity to continue play, even in inclement weather. Our master plan does includes space for future indoor courts, should we be able to build.”
In June 2015, a groundbreaking ceremony was held for The Rome Tennis Center, which is located northeast of Mount Berry Square Mall on the Berry College donated property. Rich said the school plays a key role in the project, and has proven to be an exceptional fit.
“Berry students will be afforded the opportunity to work at the center to gain valuable experience. A recent announcement by Berry includes the creation of a new USTA Professional Tennis Management Certification. USTA and Berry College will work together to offer a four-year academic and experiential/work program in preparation for careers in professional tennis.”
Rich commented that the new facility has been years in the making.
“Beginning around 2008, partners representing various organizations in Rome-Floyd County began meeting to develop plans for a tennis center in support of tourism and economic development. The partnership includes the city of Rome, Berry College, Georgia Power, Rome Convention and Visitors Bureau, Greater Rome Chamber of Commerce and the Coosa Valley Tennis Association. Berry College agreed to donate to the project a parcel of 30 acres located near the Armuchee connector.
“After we were unsuccessful in acquiring state funds to construct the center, we pitched the idea to our local constituency to be funded by a local penny sales tax. In 2013, our voters elected to approve the referendum and $11.4 million to fund the new center.”
Said Rich, “We contracted with the Selig Center for Economic Growth in the Terry College of Business at the University of Georgia in 2009 on the economic impacts of a large tennis center. This study concluded that the total annual economic impact of the tennis center could vary from $16 million to $28 million.
“In 1964, the local Coosa Valley Tennis Association [CVTA] was founded and launched tournament play on Rome’s 30 courts located throughout. In the early 1970s, the CVTA School Program was formed to increase interest in the sport among local youth.
“In 1976, the Greater Rome Convention & Visitors Bureau was created and partnered with the CVTA to attract more tournament play. Voters approved a special purpose local option sales tax [SPLOST] in 1988 to build the current 16-court tennis facility on West Third Street. A few years later, Rome was named one of the top 10 Tennis Cities in America by Tennis Magazine.”
Rome’s CEVIAN Design Lab, a studio specializing in architecture and interior design, served as architect on the project.
“The design and construction of the Rome Tennis Center of Georgia has been an active endeavor of the City of Rome, Georgia for several years,” said Mark Cochran CEVIAN architect and interior designer. “With the passing of the 2013 Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax, and through the donation of land by Berry College, the conception of the facility became an attainable reality.”
Cochran said the overall vision for the project was to create an environment that superseded the traditional expectations of tennis facilities. Rather than design a sea of tennis courts, the creative team embraced the natural layout of the landscape in an effort to design a dramatic environment and the most elite tennis facility in the Southeast.
“The most challenging aspect of the tennis center design was the topography and the wetlands,” Cochran said. “In an effort to quickly move forward with the design, and maintain delicate environmental space, the site was designed to avoid the streams and wetlands located throughout the property.
“Additionally, the topography of the site included more than 70 feet of drop from the highest to the lowest points. While making a zero percent program difficult to obtain on a site with such slope, the topographic challenge was transformed into an opportunity to use the natural lay of the land and gently terrace the courts from the highest point, at the clubhouse, to the lowest point, near the Armuchee Connector,” said Rich.
Cochran said, “Although the topography of the land was one of the most challenging aspects of this project, the terracing of the courts is certainly one of the features we are most excited about. HGOR, our landscape architects, did a beautiful job designing the site to truly embrace the natural lay of the land and provide views toward the surrounding northwest Georgia foothills.
“Being part of the Rome Tennis Center of Georgia is interesting because it’s allowed us the opportunity to design a facility that will be experienced by the community, as well as serve the community through the people it will draw to Rome.”