Future Burnaby tennis centre to be accessible for all

The announcement on Monday that plans are on schedule regarding the creation of the Western Canada Tennis Training Centre in Burnaby, was welcomed by many.

The officials at the event spoke of the many benefits the centre will bring, with the citizens of Burnaby among the big winners.

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Another group thrilled to see the proposal continue are wheelchair tennis proponents, who will see the emergence of a work space to call their own. One of the projected tenants of the centre will be the national wheelchair tennis program, alongside a western Canada junior tennis training centre.

For Kai Schrameyer, having space dedicated to wheelchair tennis and the national program can only be a boon for the competitive and recreational player alike.

“As far as (wheelchair) tennis is concerned, this will be the first (national centre),” said Schrameyer. “It’s super. It’s clearly a pilot project and I’m hoping there will be others to follow – his will set the standard.

“B.C. is already a hotbed for wheelchair tennis, and players from other provinces who want to expand and improve on their game will want to move to the Lower Mainland.”

Schrameyer, a three-time Paralympian medallist for his native Germany who recently received his Canadian citizenship, is the national team coach. Seeing his sport included in a major project like the Burnaby centre is something that should pay dividends down the road.

“It’s only been around for 40 years, which in comparison to able-bodied tennis is a short time, and it’s growing,” he said. “There are about 150, 160 players in Canada, there are tournaments year-round (and) some are professionals, so it’s a healthy development.”

Tennis Canada president Michael Downey believes a focal point for players to come and work together, just as the Western Canada junior component, will enhance an already strong climate for the sport.

“We’ve had a good history in wheelchair tennis, but a centre like this is going to give those great athletes an opportunity to really excel on the global scene, (to) win grand slams or win Paralympic medals, and that’s what we want to see as well,” said Downey.

The facility, with construction slated to begin in 2021, will increase the current Burnaby Tennis Club site to 24 courts, including 12 indoor courts, with both clay and hardcourt surfaces. Despite the warmest climate of Canada, Vancouver is still unfriendly to the sport’s players for more than 184 days per year through rain and snow.

“We’re in constant communication with my colleagues at Tennis Canada. Once the planning stage comes, we’ll make sure that certain details like a certain door width, we need parking spots that are accessible, those kinds of things. The whole thing should be seamlessly accessible from the early stages on,” said Schrameyer.

And while the view that wheelchair tennis will have its own place at the centre is pretty exciting, Schrameyer points out that having all the components in one large, united site will be beneficial for everyone.

“These guys can play amongst themselves but they could also (play) with able-bodied players,” he said. “I could put Genie (Bouchard) and Rebecca (Marino) on the court with these guys and they could hit balls. It’s a great project all around for integration for people of disabilities.”

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