An indoor tennis facility is required to grow the sport in Moncton and create competitive tennis players, says a local coach.
Mark White, a high-performance coach at On the Rise Tennis, says some of his students have ranked as high as third nationally. He believes the results would be even better if his players could practise all year long indoors.
"Moncton is the largest tennis market in Atlantic Canada without an indoor facility," White says.
"Truro has an indoor facility, Halifax has two, Fredericton has probably the nicest of the bunch. Those are all smaller markets than here."
Noah Belliveau, a Grade 12 student at Mathieu-Martin High School, says tennis is his passion. He is now training for the Atlantic championships.
He is determined to place first, but he knows his prospects would be better if Moncton had an indoor facility.
"It would be great because usually we just train two or three months during the summer and that's it. But then, if we could train during the winter, it would add another nine months to our training, so it'd be definitely great."
If the downtown centre is built, a repurposed Moncton Coliseum would be the perfect spot for indoor tennis if the seats were removed, says White.
"It requires a lot of square footage, it really truly does. It's not like soccer where you can have an area this size and have 50 kids playing at the same time."
"A big space is going to be occupied by a maximum of four, so when you're dealing with the possibility, and I realize there's a long way to go before any of these decisions are made, but I really believe that tennis is a really good fit for that Coliseum repurposing."
Increasing interest in tennis
White is also trying to increase interest in tennis by offering free lessons to children ages 5 to 7, allowing them to learn in stages with smaller equipment and slower balls.
"When we grew up playing the game, we played with normal-sized racquets, normal-size balls, big courts and very little success early on."
He says with the new approach children are developing rally skills quickly and are able to play on their own.
White and a group of volunteer coaches have been offering the free lessons twice a week since February thanks to a provincial grant that paid for all of the equipment.
"We were looking for 40 [students] max and we ended up with that many on a waiting list. The response has been astounding, very exciting because you just don't know," White says.
He hopes that by introducing a new generation to the sport along with their parents, it will erase the stereotype that tennis is an elite sport.
"We have to lose that stigma of people going to country clubs with their sweaters tied around their necks and elitism."
White says tennis is an affordable and accessible sport.
Tennis Moncton and the Riverview Tennis Club will both be offering free tennis programs beginning later in May.