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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  • CitizenKane

    Thanks for your response; and thanks for weaving some our history into your response. Nice video.

  • Duey Evans

    Very poorly written article and full of poor information. Both links are to documents which are either inaccurate or misleading.

    The second paragraph quotes me (Duey Evans) talking about where the center was when we took over. It then says the facility was 4th of 5 in terms of ‘gross revenue’ in January of 2017 and links to a City of Dallas internal document which is about revenue generated for the City which has almost nothing to do with gross facility revenue. The reality is, at the end of January 2017, Samuell Grand was #1 of the 5 city tennis centers in terms of the line item Gross Ctr Revenue for that fiscal year. That was even though court rental rates (set by Park Board) at Samuell Grand are only 83.3% what they are at Fretz and L.B. Houston.

    The 4th of 5 is about how much revenue the City of Dallas receives from tennis center operations. It is based on a formula which varies from one center to another.

    Additionally, the story links to a very old article which states the 1965 Davis Cup Tie was held at Samuell Grand because no club would allow Arthur Ashe to play at their club. In our research for the 50th Anniversary of that event, we found that to be false. We did a documentary which tells the story of the event. Having a Davis Cup Tie at Samuell Grand was something Jack Turpin had envisioned when he sold the concept of Municipal Tennis Centers to L.B. Houston in the around 1960.

    Both Kim and I hope Samuell Grand gets a new caretaker who takes it to heights we never did (though we were awarded the 2014 USTA Outstanding Facility Award). It is an amazing jewel in the East Dallas community and deserves the best. I’m not sure what was meant by, “We are expecting a higher level of service than we have had in the past. We want to reinvigorate the interest in tennis,” as we increased revenue at Samuell Grand well over 500% during our tenure and continue to serve many of those who played at Samuell Grand while we were there.