Tennis courts at Samuell Grand. (Photo from Facebook.)

It’s difficult to choose which East Dallas gem tops my list. We live in a neighborhood embarrassingly full of riches. But there’s a specific jewel that keeps me rooted here. It is steeped in history and characterized by accessibility. This is where we go to golf, swim, picnic and vote. 

Samuell Grand Park and Recreation Center has much more to offer than the aforementioned, including baseball and soccer fields, an outdoor theater and fitness equipment. As a public facility, it is open to all, has no membership requirements and offers programs that are reasonably priced. As a bonus, there’s plenty of shade when you sit in a lawn chair and greet would-be voters on Election Day.

With all that Samuell Grand has in terms of amenities, it’s the tennis courts that are the draw for me. This is where I go when real life becomes burdensome. It’s my escape to fun, focus and self-maintenance. And it’s a bargain. You can rent a court for an hour and a half for less than $3 per person. That is far less than a gym membership or the row machine that sits idle in our backhouse.

Tennis at Samuell Grand feeds my soul and fills my tank when my fuel is low. This, and an occasional girls’ night out, are two activities in which I allow myself to partake without guilt. Well, mostly without guilt, because let’s face it — motherhood is a series of opportunities to feel guilty.

I hardly excel at the sport. I’m a solid 3.0 player, maybe 3.5 on a good day. But that’s the beauty about tennis at Samuell Grand — the game is open to men and women of all ages and skill levels. The new management and pros installed last summer are friendly and make all feel welcome, something that was sadly lacking in previous years. 

My only real critique is that the nighttime lighting could be improved, and they should bring back the small trash bins on the courts. Oh, and an ice machine would be nice. But what’s most important is that the courts are in great shape, considering they are from the city versus the country club. 

The beauty of tennis at Samuell Grand was enhanced three years ago when I joined the Slammers, an all-female tennis team that’s been in existence for nearly two decades. It can be intimidating to worm your way into a group of women who have been together for a long time. I would have felt less intimidated if I had come in with top-notch racket skills, but I knew I had to win them over with other aspects — my competitive spirit, my sense of humor and my willingness to run to every ball no matter where it lands in the court. 

I was accepted, as have others who have subsequently joined the team. Recently, a subset of the Slammers went to The Old Monk on Henderson for brunch following a team loss. This lovely Saturday morning made me realize how lucky I am to have the Samuell Grand Tennis Center and to have found these women. We didn’t brood about the matches or go over every unforced error in detail. Rather, we replaced our competitive nature with great conversation. 

Our team is reflective of the folks who come to play tennis at Samuell Grand. We encompass a wide range of diversity in age, height, background, skills, ethnicity and race. A few of us are from Lakewood, but others drive from Uptown, Oak Lawn, Victory Park, Oak Cliff and Mesquite for practice sessions and home games.

I do experience a bit of tennis-center envy when we play some of the “fancier” clubs like the Four Seasons with their monogrammed towels, free bottled water and high-end ice machines. But that’s easy for me to get over. What I love most about Samuell Grand is that it affirms my belief that, just like public education, everyone is entitled access to a quality public tennis center. We’re lucky that this gem just happens to be in East Dallas.

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