CANMORE – The springy pop of tennis balls being whacked at a new facility in Canmore is music to the ears of a community that persisted until it finally got its ace.
Sunday (July 30) marked the grand opening of four brand new courts at Lions Park, where playing, growth, and the celebration of tennis culture, which was envisioned by the Canmore Tennis Association (CTA) more than a decade ago, had come to fruition.
Looking around at the four state-of-the-art courts on a bright sunny day, which were all being used by veteran players, rookies and everyone in between, Greg Kletke and Carmen Colborne, couldn’t help but smile at the blossoming community they had a big hand in building.
“We’ve been waiting for this for 13 years and I wouldn’t miss this for the world,” said Kletke, who is a former CTA president along with Colborne.
“We wanted a centre where people could bring their kids if they wanted to be taught tennis at a young age and feel safe here. So the backbone of all that was this new facility.”
Last year, construction broke ground on the new four-court regulation size play area, increasing in size by at least 33 per cent over the aging court setup. One court will be used for teaching the game, separated by a 1.5 metre high fence to help prevent runaway balls from rolling into other courts. The courts are positioned to not be facing the sunset either.
“I’ve had a chance to play a couple times now and this surface is just perfect. It’s the right consistency, in terms of grip and grab and whatnot, and has plenty of space between the courts, so it’s safe,” said Kletke.
The new set-up replaced the old three courts that were built in the early 1980s.
Built in the early 1980s, the three old courts at Lions Park had become outdated as the CTA grew to approximately 100 members by 2010.
The process of getting new courts installed took over a decade. The project raised $630,000 from grants, community fundraising and a significant portion through the Town of Canmore.
The need for new courts was evident back in the late 2000s when the club tripled in size over a few years.
“We lost something by not having a large enough facility,” said Colborne. “We looked around and said we’re a community known for our commitment to sport, recreation, and quality facilities.”
Although, having a new facility put in place was easier said than done for the relatively small club of about 100 people in 2010, so the CTA got creative.
First, they had to convince the Town through research that there was a need for the new courts through active membership, inclusive play in town, and out-of-town visitors using the courts.
Secondly, they had to figure out funding.
“We worked on a business plan to expand it,” said Kletke. “We started working with Jim Younker, who was the rec manager [at the Town] at the time, and he put the bug in our ear that if you put together an enterprise model, I could probably sell that to the Town.”
As part of an enterprise model, which user groups pay into as part of a self-funding process, the large fee will become cost neutral to taxpayers.
One of the biggest victories – or headaches, depending on how you look at it – was setting up a booking system and fees at the bustling courts.
It was one of the hardest things to get approved in the community, said Colborne.
“That’s how we got to all the way we are now because otherwise you show up to play and you could never get on the court, people were mean to each other and it was not pleasant,” said Colborne.
“We proved the model that people will pay and that was a big stepping stone.”
Through fees, fundraising and grants, the CTA finally got its “missing piece of the puzzle” in 2021 when it received $125,000 from the Alberta government for its proposed expansion of the public tennis court facility.
Now, on the 100-year anniversary of tennis in Canmore, current president Ron Remple said the club has more than 200 members, with approximately 4,000 people using the courts per year. He added that with the new courts, it’s accessible and provides a lifelong sport for the community.
“We not only have just a tennis club, but we got a tennis club that dates back 100 years and a tennis club that’s very vibrant, as well, and growing,” said Remple. “I think that’s one of the great things about this sport, is that it’s growing in the Bow Valley.”