Canadian tennis is on the rise, thanks to such names as Bianca Andreescu, Milos Raonic, Eugenie Bouchard and Felix Auger-Aliassime.
The spotlight for future stars could very much be in Burnaby, as the plans for the Western Canada Training Centre were updated at a press conference Monday at the Burnaby Tennis Club.
With international players Rebecca Marino – ranked 181st on the women’s pro tour – and Bouchard (114th) in attendance, Tennis Canada and the city of Burnaby basked in the project which will see the current Burnaby Lake club increase to 24 courts, including a minimum of 12 covered surfaces.
The partners involved – Tennis Canada, Burnaby and Burnaby Tennis Club – were excited about the prospect of seeing a national junior training centre and Canada’s wheelchair tennis centre coming to fruition. The only pause is that funding and construction realities on the bog-like surface will put off the first shovel until 2021.
“It’s been a great process, working with the city of Burnaby has been really easy,” Tennis Canada president and CEO Michael Downey told the NOW. “They’ve been unbelievably cooperative, they see the power of a national centre here in Burnaby at this location and they know this is going to benefit kids who are playing here. It’s going to benefit wheelchair athletes and it’s going to benefit the high performance (players). It’s going to benefit the full spectrum of people who love tennis.”
Discussions between the city and Tennis Canada first began in 2016, with the Central Valley site offering a perfect complement to national training centres in Montreal and Toronto. While they signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) in July 2018, the wheels have really began to turn recently with TC’s fundraising program.
Downey said the organization’s contribution of $750,000 towards site preparation – part of an overall commitment of $6M – is moving the ball forward.
“The delay is as much for to raise money but also the soil has to settle. That’s why we hope to break ground in 2021 and open in 2022. It sounds like a long way off and it’s really not. Were nearly into 2020 now,” he said.
Burnaby Parks and Recreation and Cultural Services director Dave Ellenwood said the project, which will involve between 15 and 20 acres that includes the current Burnaby Tennis Club, needs to follow a process due to the soil issues involved.
“It’s progressing in due course. Things take time,” said Ellenwood. “Tennis Canada has done some geo-technical analysis after we initiated the MOU. What they need to do is deal with the implications of that. There’s some cost of preloading (soil) which will have to be the next stage, then the construction and operating agreement which will be the next phases.”
He said the city’s pledge, which includes a lease agreement and off-site services like water, sewer, power and road upgrades to the area, to be approximately $6.5M.
Downey noted that the centre, once completed, will be unique in that it will be accessible for the community, including opportunities for pickleball and badminton, while also serving the national elite development side.
“It will not be a private club. This will be a community club that is community first. Our first purpose is to give the great citizens of Burnaby the opportunity to play tennis year-round, because we’ll have a lot of covered courts, but also play on clay or hard court,” he said.
“I don’t know how long it will take but there’s no doubt that there will be a next Eugenie Bouchard, an Andreescu or Milos Raonic or Felix (Auger-Aliassime) that comes out of this centre. There is so much talent in the Lower Mainland we just want to give those kids a better opportunity to first of all exceed their expectations and then succeed on the global stage.”