Tennis Canada hits a winner -
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post #1 of 1 (permalink) Old 07-24-2004, 04:17 PM Thread Starter
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Join Date: Jan 2004
Location: Ciudad de Mierda
Age: 38
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Tennis Canada hits a winner

Got there before Andre Agassi. And Tim Henman, Andy Roddick and Roger Federer.

This particular tennis summit, it should be noted, was even reached by your loyal servant without having to qualify for the privilege.

To centre court, driver, and step on it.

Those aforementioned fellas all made it to the big stage at Wimbledon, Roland Garros, Flushing Meadows and every other major tennis facility in the world before I did.

But not the new Rexall Centre, Tennis Canada's soon-to-be-discovered $38 million gem on the grounds of York University.

Agassi was still five hours away from being the first ATP superstar to test the joint when I and my nemesis, otherwise known as The Crafty Left-hander, scuffled our way on to the playing surface of the 11,500-seat Stadium Court yesterday morning.

As we extracted our favourite weapons and prepared for battle at the agreed upon 7:30 start time, the overcast skies and windy conditions failed to dampen our enthusiasm.

Neither, for that matter, did the sound of power drills.

This is a facility, you should understand, that was a beehive of activity yesterday, just one day before qualifying was to begin for this year's Tennis Masters Canada.

Flower boxes were being dragged into position, construction workers were everywhere, locker room attendants were still waiting for shampoo to be delivered and the giant video screens that will sit high above the main court were still waiting to be installed.

Throughout the 15-acre complex, work was ongoing at a furious pace. Over on the 3,000-seat grandstand, named in honour of Canadian tennis star Daniel Nestor, persistent rain had caused the ground to start heaving and shifting, forcing workers to bring in tons of dirt that lay in huge mounds with competition just hours away.

None of these last-minute efforts, however, could detract from the sense the Rexall Centre has been intelligently designed for both the current and future needs of this tournament.

Most important, it's not too big. Selling the tickets it has right now will be enough of a challenge, but a cavernous main stadium on an enormous patch of land would have been a major error.

This way, demand is easier to create, as is a sense of a happening, and Stadium Court can be enlarged down the road if necessary.

"We want to be able to grow into the facility," said tournament director Stacey Allaster yesterday.

The Rexall Centre is the latest in a series of new sports facilities to open in the GTA over the past decade, a list that includes the Air Canada Centre, the Hershey Centre and the Ricoh Coliseum on the CNE grounds. Still to come is the new home of the Toronto Argonauts at the old site of Varsity Stadium.

It seems clear the designers of the new tennis facility understood that within this context of new buildings and extra entertainment inventory they needed to make their stadium appealing on the basis of its contrast to the makeshift nature of the old National Tennis Centre and overall sense of logic as a place to watch the sport.

Bells and whistles came a distant second to common sense.

Will that deliver legions of new fans? Maybe. But it will surely make the committed ones want to stay.

On the surface, the Rexall Centre appears to have delivered great value for $38 million, $10 million of which came from government coffers.

The sightlines in the Stadium Court are excellent, particularly from the corners. The media accommodations are nearly perfect. The practice courts have been placed so as to be open to the public. The Nestor court stands only a football field away from the main building, with lots of other match courts, exhibits and food outlets between the two that should help create that sense of a festival in a park that the best tournaments in the world try to achieve.

That said, Stadium Court clearly didn't fit the needs of my game, with The Crafty Left-hander once more making me look like Jose Canseco chasing fly balls with his usual assortment of spins, lobs and drop shots.

I blamed the swirling winds, not to mention the pressure of having workers occasionally glance up from their labours to see what all the cursing was about.

But I'm sure Andre and friends will like it just fine.

gravity is offline  

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