Chris Nicholson

Writer & Editor

Municipal Facility of the Year

Lexington County Tennis Complex

When Jorge Andrew signed on to become tennis director of South Carolina's Lexington County Tennis Complex in 2001, he had one mission—“To have a tennis complex where we could get more people playing tennis, make the people who were already playing tennis happier, and offer all players any kind of activity that they wanted to have.”

It wasn't a modest goal. But only three years later, it is a goal achieved. Lexington County Tennis Complex (LCTC) stands as a showpiece and model facility in the USTA's Southern Section, recognized as such locally and nationally. In 2003, the complex was named the USTA Team Tennis 2003 Public Facility of the Year. And for 2004, LCTC is RSI's Municipal Facility of the Year.

One of the reasons for the LCTC's success is its effort to reach out to every area of the tennis world. “We try to have programs for all levels and all kinds of players,” Andrew says. “In 2004 we had 37 activities, including adult tournaments, junior tournaments, continued education for tennis professionals. We hold two workshops a year for the PTR, and two workshops for the USPTA. We try to be the tennis center for all the people in this area.”

In 2003 and '04, the LCTC's 21 lighted courts hosted the 2,000-player Southern Sectional Championships, which the Southern Section bills as “the largest tennis tournament in the world”. “The tennis complex was built perfectly for this type of event,” says Marilyn Sherman, the section's director of Adult Competition & Leagues. “It's not just the number of courts, but that the layout is such that you can use all the courts at once in a fantastic way. For a public facility, it's beautifully done.”

The LCTC was opened in June 2001, not to replace an old complex, but because John Criscione, executive director of the Lexington County Recreation and Aging Commission, wanted to provide a top-notch venue for the tennis players of the region to congregate and grow the game. Thus the paved and lighted parking, clubhouse, pro shop, locker rooms, stadium court, nine staff (including four full-time teaching pros) and immaculate landscaped grounds that have more country-club atmosphere than public-park.

Since then, the county has seen tennis interest grow dramatically. According to Andrew, when the LCTC opened, they had 20 teams play league tennis; just three years later, there are now 42 teams, requiring two time slots four days a week to get all the matches in. The After School Tennis Club attracts 50 to 80 youngsters per four-week session, many of whom end up playing in local tournaments, including the Chanda Rubin South Carolina ITF Junior Tennis Classic, held at the complex. Adult beginner clinics also start every four weeks, after which the new players are placed into leagues, helped by the Lexington Area Tennis Association officials who are on site.

All this public-park tennis activity keeps the LCTC open 90 hours every week.

“I attribute a lot of the complex's success to Jorge,” Criscione says. “We've been pleased beyond our wildest dreams, and it just seems to be getting better.”

As for Andrew, a former touring pro and Davis Cup player for Venezuela, he attributes the LCTC's success to how it caters to players. “Even though this is a public facility, the customer is first,” he says. “We try to give our tennis players what they want, what they ask for, and what they need.”

All concerned agree it's been a job well done. “They've spent quite a bit of effort in planning the facility and wrapping the community around it,” Sherman says. “And it really has become a focal point for tennis there.”



LCTC's Tips for Success
• Pay attention to customer service. Even in a public facility, you need to treat players the way they want to be treated.
• Run your programs professionally in all aspects.
• Make your facility attractive in all ways. Make sure it's clean, well-decorated and that everything is working and in order.

by Chris Nicholson
published in RSi, November 2004