The Lebanon Valley Community Tennis Association (LVCTA) is currently working on a project to construct an indoor facility around the existing courts at Louser Memorial Park Southwest, or Optimist Park.

While this will be a lengthy project, the LVCTA has already begun laying framework. LebTown met with members of the organization this week to learn more.

Current progress

An engineering survey has confirmed the Optimist Park courts are a suitable location for a permanent structure.

The LVCTA also met with the City Council a few weeks ago and received preliminary support. Mayor Sherry Capello also indicated her support for the project.

Most recently, on Thursday, July 11, the LVCTA announced on its Facebook page that it has been granted federal tax-exempt status as a 501(c) organization.

The LVCTA hopes to have architectural plans completed by the end of August. At that point, it will begin fundraising in earnest for the project.

Close to the beginning of this year, the LVCTA was recognized by the United States Tennis Association (USTA), which opens the organization up to additional funding. It expects that the resurfacing of courts, an estimated $30,000 to $50,000, will be paid for by the USTA.

The construction of an indoor facility, which would include an office and storage space, a bathroom, a viewing room, and a classroom, is estimated to cost from $700,000 to $1,000,000.

“Our hope is that we can raise enough money within a year or two so that we can complete this project in that time frame,” said LVCTA co-founder and director Jeff Robbins.

The LVCTA has already begun a membership drive and patron campaign to raise funds, with around 50 registered members/patrons as of now.

Plans for the facility

The indoor facility is expected to begin its programs as soon as it is built.

Community outreach

LVCTA organizers intend to provide a variety of after-school and summer programming for under-served Lebanon city youth once the facility is constructed.

The group’s proposal references the 2017 PA Youth Survey, which notes that the majority of Lebanon youth do not participate in organized community activities. This survey recommends opportunities for active participation, skills needed to succeed, recognition, bonding, and clear standards for behavior for these youth.

“I think there are a lot of really important initiatives that I’ve become aware of in the City of Lebanon that are trying to promote public health initiatives,” said Robbins. “This will kind of piggyback on a lot of those already existing initiatives to make Lebanon a more attractive place to live and play for people of all ages.”

There are already plans for the facility, once constructed, to offer free after-school tutoring and tennis instruction for all Lebanon youth indicating interest and abiding by the programs’ principles on weekdays.

Tutoring will be overseen by LVCTA co-founders and directors Mark Seaton and Robbins. Professor Ivette Guzman-Zavala, LVC varsity tennis players, and community volunteers will also assist.

“Once we get the center up and running, we will provide opportunities for players to have year-round instruction,” said Robbins.

The LVCTA plans to seek grants and donations to help hold these programs.

The four-court facility will incorporate the USTA Net Generation Program, a junior program in which players progress based on skill development.

It hopes to implement a family program based on the COR Tennis program in Reading by reserving court time for families multiple times a month.

It will also allow other community organizations to use the facility for recreational and social events and offer the facility as a potential backup site for Lebanon events at risk of rain cancellation.

“The important thing is that it takes an underutilized property right now and kind of renovates that and rehabilitates it so it becomes a community hub that can be used for a variety of purposes beyond just tennis instruction,” said Robbins.

Revenue providers

Robbins expects that once the facility is constructed and put to use, it will be cost-neutral due to various programs that bring in profit.

The courts, which can also be converted for pickleball play, will rent out time when not being used for league play, tournaments, or youth clinics.

The LVCTA hopes to open the facility as a public recreational site on a pay-for-play basis. Residents of Lebanon City will receive discounted rates for court use and enrollment in lessons, clinics, and camps.

The facility will be able to host USTA League play, UTR events, and regional tournaments, all of which could bring in significant revenue.

Other LVCTA projects

The LVCTA has recently been involved in a variety of community outreach measures while it develops plans for the Optimist Park facility.

“What we’re trying to do is just try to do some community outreach to get our name out and to do some community service,” said Robbins.

This summer, it is holding three weeks of free tennis clinics for kids 5-12 years old. The first week, June 17-21, around 20 kids attended despite rainy conditions.

The other tennis clinics are scheduled for July 15-19 and August 12-16, with 30-40 kids expected to attend each week.

At the Optimist Park tennis courts, volunteer coaches pose for the first day of June tennis clinics.

The LVCTA will also be offering three weeks of low-cost clinics for local middle school and high school players aged 12 to 18.

Running Monday and Thursday evenings from 6:30 to 8:00 p.m. from July 15 to August 15 at Optimist Park, the cost for all ten sessions is $50. If interested, sign up here.

In a partnership with the PA Migrant Education Program administered by Millersville University, the LVCTA offered tennis as a summer physical activity at Northwest Elementary School for 50-60 kids.

Kids line up in the Northwest Elementary School gym with tennis rackets.

This April and May, the LVCTA also hosted two tennis tournaments with 76 participants in total.

While it raises money for an indoor facility, the LVCTA plans to continue its current involvement in the community through programs like these. Follow the organization on Facebook for more updates on its plans for an Optimist Park indoor facility.

Emily Bixler was born and raised in Lebanon and now reports on local government. In her free time, she enjoys playing piano and going for hikes.


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