Woods Tennis Center Earns Gold Star Award
To honor their 100th anniversary in 2020, the USTA Missouri Valley is recognizing 100 deserving recipients with the Gold Star Award. This award recognizes contributions that recipients have made in growing the game of tennis in their community. In Nebraska, one of the first two winners is Woods Tennis Center of Lincoln.
Woods Tennis Center is unique because it is a non-profit, public facility where anyone is welcome to play a match or take part in a cardio tennis drill. No membership is required. Executive Director Kevin Heim said their goals are to remove all barriers so everyone can play the lifetime sport.
“We are truly open to everyone,” Heim said. “We provide racquets to those that are just beginning or cannot afford their own. We have a scholarship program that allows for so many families in challenging times or that cannot afford this sport to play. We truly have people from all walks of life in our program.”
Each year the staff at Woods teaches lessons to over 1,200 kids in the community and also with after-school programming. Woods hosts high school and college duals and tournaments, the UNL Club Team practices there and the adult programming continues to grow with leagues, adult drills and instructional lessons.
“The best part about Woods is creating and sharing an escape for people who play tennis in a safe environment,” he added. “People come here to get away from work and school.”
In the 1960’s, Woods started up as a public park facility with three outdoor courts. Not long after that, three more outdoor courts were added. In the 80’s, the indoor bubble was added and a clubhouse. In 2017, Woods underwent a massive reconstruction with the community pitching in to donate.
“We opened a new six-court permanent indoor structure with additional locker rooms, viewing and office space,” Heim said. “Woods currently consists of six indoor and 12 outdoor courts. Six of the outdoor courts are lighted and we are installing lights on the other six that should be ready in the next month.”
Heim and his staff were honored to receive the Gold Star award, and he was happy to share some positive news during COVID-19. The facility has been shut down because of the pandemic and like many others, are communicating through Zoom video conferencing. He attributes the success of the facility to his staff and the board members.
As far as the future of Woods, Heim said the next phase of expansion includes four more indoor courts. Until then, they will continue to welcome everyone into their facility.
“Woods isn’t the stereotypical tennis facility because of the wide variety of people that come through the doors,” Heim said. “There are people from all over the country and world, folks from all socio-economic backgrounds, people from tennis families and those that have never played. Recreational players, nationally ranked players, young, old, able-bodied and wheelchair, autistic and other special needs as well.”
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