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Foundation is created to continue tradition

By NANCY MORGAN

© St. Petersburg Times,
published September 26, 2001


Mention St. Petersburg Tennis Center and memories of international legends playing there in major tournaments come to the minds of many.

Jack Kramer, Rod Laver, Arthur Ashe, Billie Jean King and Chris Evert are among the players who scored victories at the center the past 60-plus years.

Not wanting to lose such memories played a major role in the creation of the Tennis Foundation of St. Petersburg. The community-based association's primary mission is to preserve the site, provide a safe place for those of all ages and backgrounds to come together and to make the center self-sustaining.

"When I heard what the city wanted to do with the center, I knew we couldn't let that happen," said Anne Sackett, who has been involved with SPTC the past 23 years.

"I live five minutes from here and felt having the center remain was important to the entire community," she said.

Sackett put up a sign at the center announcing a meeting, and 40 people attended. When that group planned an open house, about 400 participated and 150 of those offered to help keep the center open.

"What emerged from that meeting was the idea for the Tennis Foundation of St. Petersburg," Sackett said. "I have never worked with a group of people that came together so arduously. People feel so strongly about the center, and they want it to remain."

As the foundation began to evolve, Jay Sokolovsky was selected to serve as president, Doug Engel as treasurer, Johnna Patterson as grant writer and Sackett as secretary.

The officers are joined by volunteers such as Gayle Woodley, Kelley Keeton, Deborah Martino, Ray Sanderlin and Liz Schroeder. "I grew up on clay, and since coming to St. Petersburg, I have played on their clay courts," said Sokolovsky, a professor of anthropology at the USF St. Petersburg campus.

"We've tried to make the center a home and a place for the kids. When the issue with the city closing the center came up, I wanted to take action."

Some of the foundation's high hopes are to create an atmosphere that attracts young people and to combine tennis with academics, to encourage surrounding neighbors to participate at the center and to establish the courts as home courts for other organizations. "We can do some things the city couldn't do," said Sackett, a former president of St. Petersburg's League of Women Voters. "We can raise funds, apply for more grants and offer the same fee -- whether resident or non-resident."

The fees will be $295 for single memberships, $445 for couples and families, $99 for juniors and $189 for seasonal (six-month) members.

Doug Woods will continue as the head tennis pro, long-time instructor Dan Sullivan will return to teach and Al Sarmiento will continue to direct state-sanctioned junior and adult tournaments. A tennis director will be named.

"I really hope all this works," Sarmiento said. "Since I have a lot of club experience, I've been helping train a lot of those that will be working at the center."

SENIOR LEAGUES: A captains meeting for the USTA Florida Section's Senior and Super Senior men's and women's doubles leagues is scheduled for 7 p.m. Oct. 10 at Royal Racquet Club.

Coordinators include Judy Murphy (815-9618), for the senior women; Josie Doucette (862-1656), super senior women; and Seaton Kenworthy (785-8399), senior and super senior men.

SOUTH PINELLAS LEAGUES: In last week's opening matches in the South Pinellas Ladies Doubles League, the Vinoy B and St. Pete Tennis Center scored victories in the 3.0-3.5 division, as did the St. Petersburg Country Club Aces and Treasure Island Rec in 3.5-4.0.

A men's league, similar to the women's, is being coordinated by Sam Vuille.

Two-position doubles teams with har tru court availability are welcome to participate in the Saturday morning league, scheduled to begin Oct. 6. The cost is $20 per squad. For information, call Vuille, 867-9105.

ADULTS CLASSIC: Jeff Chambers defended his top billing in the SPTC Adults Classic Championships at St. Petersburg Tennis Center last weekend.

In the 35-and-over final, Chambers blanked St. Petersburg's Nik Sukhasam.

Other winners were Clearwater's Bill Christensen, the top seed in men's 55, Dave Krebs, No. 1 in 65, and Maria Drew, the top seed in women's 35.

Area finalists included Sukhasam (35), Steve Talner (45), Al Sarmiento (65) and Joan Malone (60). The consolation winners were Nor Saypharath (35) and Terry Tetzlaff (55).

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