Canadian tennis star on hand for grand opening of tennis and pickleball facility
By Rob J. Ross
Saturday, September 9, 2017
ST. THOMAS - It was the grand opening for the Pinafore Park courts and a Canadian tennis star was in St. Thomas for the ceremony.
Daniel Nestor, one of the world's top doubles players, cut the red ribbon to officially open the tennis and pickleball facility, before playing a few scrimmage matches.
Open to the public since July, there are eight courts for tennis and eight for pickleball, at the same location as the old courts, just north of Emslie Field. Lights allow play at night and wind screens keep out gusty conditions.
"I was surprised of the quality of the facility. For a public facility it's amazing. There's potential here for a lot of good things," said Nestor, who has a resume with 88 men's doubles titles, including an Olympic gold medal in 2000.
Also at centre court for the event, was Sportnet's Caroline Cameron, St. Thomas mayor, Heather Jackson, the St. Thomas Special Olympics tennis team and members of the University of Western tennis club.
"It's great to see this," local tennis enthusiast Marc Sopoco said. "It's a great feature. It'll attract people from all over the province."
A local realtor, Sopoco adds he has had clients move to St. Thomas, in part due to the new courts.
Construction of the facility started in August, 2016, finishing this past June. In February, 2016, St. Thomas city council approved an $850,000 expenditure to fully fund project, in that year's city budget.
The new courts replace ones that received little attention for over 20 years, with rusted fences, sagging nets and poor lighting.
Jackson addressed the crowd before Nestor snipped the ribbon.
"We're very excited about this project and very happy to see so many people out taking advantage of it," Jackson said. "Well we officially open our new tennis and pickleball courts, they have been open for a few months and very well used."
The new courts should attract local young athletes to the sport, which is growing thanks to the recent success of Milos Raonic and Denis Shapovalov.
"Tennis in general is really picking up in Canada. Participation is going up with what Milas did and what Dennis is doing now," Nestor said. "Ten years I don't think anyone could have predicted what is going on, so it's very exciting. We have great international coaches and a great training facility in Montreal. That has been key to sparking tennis."
Cameron, who attended Western and Fanshawe College, does tennis coverage for Sportsnet, along with her usual spot on the highlights show. The former ball girl does find time to pick up a racket too.
"I play a few times a week with friends. I work nights so I have time during the day to play," said Cameron, who spent time on the court with the St. Thomas Special Olympics team.
Following the grand opening,
the Bistro, in downtown St. Thomas, hosted a fundraiser, for Western
University's tennis club and Act Now for Cancer.