The Columbia River High School boys tennis team is on better footing this fall, but that just scratches the surface of this story.
River’s four tennis courts got a much-needed and overdue facelift over the summer thanks to the fundraising efforts of the Vancouver Tennis Center Foundation.
“Generally, tennis courts need to be resurfaced every five to seven years,” River tennis coach Jim Sevall said. “And it had been 12 years since our courts had been resurfaced.”
Last spring, when the school’s maintenance staff came out to power wash the courts in preparation for the spring season, the work had to stop because the power washing was stripping off large swaths of the top surface.
“They were getting pretty bad,” Sevall said.
Sevall knows what can happen when tennis courts get in bad shape. When Sevall coached at Hudson’s Bay, those courts had to be completely rebuilt. A similar project today at River could cost in upward of $250,000.
That makes the $32,000 price tag of resurfacing more reasonable. Still, with Vancouver Public Schools facing a budget shortfall last spring, that price tag remained too steep.
“And that’s when Michelle stepped in and made them an offer they couldn’t refuse,” Sevall said.
The coach was talking about Michelle Rudi, who in addition to being River’s assistant tennis coach, is also the co-president of the VTC Foundation along with Kim Hamlic.
For the past six years, the foundation has been raising money to provide scholarships for youth tennis lessons, equipment and shoes for high school tennis players as well as helping with the maintenance of public courts around Vancouver.
“We consider to be more like asset preservation,” Rudi said.
Last spring, Rudi asked Vancouver Public Schools if it would be willing to pay for the resurfacing of River’s courts if the foundation could raise half of the costs.
VPS took Rudi up on that offer.
Thanks to two generous donations from the Firstenburg Foundation and the Keller family, the VTC Foundation was able to raise the $16,000 it needed.
Work on the courts began in June and was completed in July.
The project followed other resurfacing projects that the foundation was able to complete in cooperation VPS.
Courts at Marshall and Lincoln elementary schools have been resurfaced, and the four outdoor courts at the Vancouver Tennis Center, which served as Fort Vancouver High’s courts, were completely redone, thanks in part to the work of the VTC Foundation.
“These projects benefit not only the schools, but the public as well,” Rudi said. “There aren’t a lot of public tennis courts available in Vancouver. These courts are getting used. If we come out for a 10 a.m. practice on a Saturday (at River), we’ll find these courts in use.”
In addition to raising funds, the VTC Foundation also collects new and lightly-used equipment, which it distributes to high school players every year.
This year, the foundation has handed out 100 rackets and 75 pairs of court shoes to high school tennis players. And that makes life easier on coaches, like Sevall, when they go searching for players.
“A lot of players we get to come out for tennis are just athletes who play other sports,” Sevall said. “We’ve got some basketball players, baseball players, who come out and make our team better.”
But many of those players don’t have the equipment needed to play tennis. And that’s where the VTC Foundation helps out.
With River’s blue-and-green courts looking like new again, Rudi already has her sights set on the next fundraising project.
“We like to get a ball machine for the players, and also a shed to store all of the equipment,” she said. “Because right now, our storage unit is my car.”
Tim Martinez is the assistant sports editor/prep editor for The Columbian. He can be reached at 360-735-4538, firstname.lastname@example.org or follow his Twitter handle @360TMart.