Wessen Lawn Tennis Club brings 24 ryegrass courts to former abandoned community center
What was an abandoned lot in Pontiac, Mich., a few months ago is now a 24-grass-court grass tennis club.
Wessen Lawn Tennis Club, a $1.5 million private outdoor facility, lies on a historic 4-acre lot just a few blocks from the city’s downtown. The lot was originally home to a city water works plant that opened in 1919. It was most recently a community center; however, it has been vacant for the last 10 to 15 years, according to former Wessen grounds superintendent and six-year Sports Turf Managers Association (STMA) member Jeffrey Monette.
The majority of construction at Wessen was completed last summer. After the leveling and tree-removal was complete, the courts were placed last fall.
The perennial ryegrass courts – the same ryegrass playing surface as Wimbledon – are mowed to three-eighths of an inch about four to five times a week. The courts are open from 10 a.m. to dusk to avoid dew.
“Daily rolling will knock the dew off which helps the grass dry off a bit, but it has to be dry to play, which is different from other grass sports,” Monette says.
Players wear flat-bottom tennis shoes, not cleats, so slipping is a hazard. If there’s any water on the courts at all they cannot be played on.
When tennis is played on grass courts, the ball’s cushioned rebound results in a faster game. It also is well received because of its easiness on joints, especially knees.
“Everyone who plays on the courts says, ‘wow this is really cool.’ It feels good to bring something back to life that they thought died a hundred years ago,” Monette says.
Monette believes lawn tennis courts are somewhat of a niche because they are difficult to maintain and also costly, which he sees as a drawback. In the United States, most tennis courts are made of concrete or artificial clay.
The community surrounding this area of Pontiac has had a positive reaction to the new facility. A vacant building has been transformed into beautiful grounds.
There are plans to develop the building on the property into a full-service restaurant for members and guests. The shell of an Olympic-size swimming pool, a leftover remnant of the old community center, is currently being refinished.
“A lot of people have stopped in and said they remember swimming in the pool or going to dances here,” Monette says. “It’s a positive thing for the community.”
Photos: Joelle Harms