Samuell-Grand Tennis Center may soon have a new operator

Photo by Can Türkyilmaz

Samuell-Grand Tennis Center is part of what makes the expansive East Dallas park a destination, but for several weeks, it has been without an operator to give tennis lessons, run leagues, or sell equipment.

Midcourt Tennis Academy, who ran the center for the last eight years, opted not to renew their contract. Duey Evans, the head professional at Samuell-Grand with Midcourt, says that when they took over Samuell-Grand it was the lowest performing center. According to the city’s data, Samuell-Grand was the fourth-highest grossing tennis center out of five in January 2017. Midcourt held lessons, leagues and tournaments at the facility for youth and adults, and wanted to expand to be the operator of all five of Dallas’ Tennis Centers.

When the city said they could not operate all five, Midcourt made the decision to stop running Samuell-Grand, which was the longest commute for the staff, who came from Frisco. Midcourt continues to offer their services at Fretz Tennis Center at Beltline and Hillcrest in North Dallas.

Sept. 30 was the last day of operation for Midcourt at Samuell-Grand, but John Lawrence, superintendent of special services over golf and tennis at the Dallas Park and Recreation Department, says that a new contractor should be in place within a month.

The city met with  several vendors, and they expect to take a contract for a new operator to the Park Board and City Council next month.

“We are expecting a higher level of service than we have had in the past. We want to reinvigorate the interest in tennis,” Lawrence says.

Samuell-Grand has a storied history. The facility hosted the Davis Cup, an international team tennis tournament, in 1965. Arthur Ashe was on the U.S. team, and no country club would allow a black man to play on their courts, so the tournament was held at Samuell-Grand, which had been recently built. The center fell into disrepair during the 1980s, but in 2010 it was remodeled with new locker rooms and a pro shop.

Since 1979, Dallas has offered contracts to private tennis organizations to run the tennis centers, which is not a common practice for most cities. Patrons in other places need to be a member of a private club to receive instruction from tennis pros. But revenue from the Tennis Centers fell from about $100,000 in 2014 to just over $80,000 in 2016, while expenses more than tripled from $150,000 to over $500,000 in the same period.

Samuell-Grand had over 21,000 yearly court reservations, and the number of leagues had risen from two to 15 over the last several years.

Until a new vendor is approved, the Tennis Center will be open for regular play, but there will not be lessons, leagues, or tournaments run out of the facility. It will be open from Monday to Wednesday from 4 to 9 p.m., on Thursday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., closed Fridays, and open on Saturday and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.


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