SU tennis courts move brings memories, mixed feelings

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News that the tennis courts off College Avenue near Salisbury University are being moved to make room for a parking lot brought back warm memories for Ed Thomas.

“My parents bought a house on Camden Avenue in 1958 that is now the site of the university’s Scarborough building. I was 8 years old and I had played tennis before we moved to Salisbury,” Thomas recalled.

His grandfather in New Jersey, where he was born, owned property with a tennis court and he learned to play young, before the family relocated to Salisbury, and it sparked a lifetime love of the game.

“The courts had a great location. You could walk there in two or three minutes and it was a safe environment in, well, let’s call it the old days. My two younger brothers played tennis and my parents had no qualms about us packing a sandwich and staying over there all day,” Thomas recalled.

Any sports activity is good for children because it gets them outside and away from constantly playing with electronics, he said. And tennis is a game that can be played for life.

“It’s a good excuse to get sweaty,” he said, laughing.

He grew up playing against Dave Ryan, and both Salisbury men talked about the city’s rich tennis tradition dating back to the 1960s. Fellow resident Bill Reardon was professional player Jimmy Connors’ original manager, and Reardon taught his own son to play, Thomas said.

“They used to have a big championship in Salisbury. Back in the ’60s and ’70s Salisbury was a very popular town for tennis,” Ryan said.

“It was a cool place, but I understand moving the courts to the athletic side of SU. I have very fond memories there but this gives us a chance to make a change. SU has a great team now and it’s going to be a   top-notch team. It’s a good way we can all make new memories. I’m looking forward to that,” Ryan said.

He taught his three children to play tennis on the old courts and said he has seen excellent players who learned the game there.

Thomas said seeing the tennis courts go to make room for a parking lot makes him a bit sad, but a modern, 12-court facility is being built near other university athletics facilities off Bateman Street.

New courts are scheduled to open in early July, according to SU’s public relations office. The parking lot will be in use by mid-August, before the fall semester starts. A new sidewalk and pedestrian enhancements will be added behind Fulton Hall, connecting Holloway Hall to TETC.

The public will be able to use the new tennis courts when SU isn’t on them, and there will be visitor parking.

Thomas called it “a better facility.”

“You’re nostalgic for anything you did, in my case, more than 50 years ago,” said Thomas, who still plays tennis. “But this will really be an improvement.”

The intersection at College Avenue and Route 13 will not change and there won’t be a new traffic light.

The city allowed SU an additional exit from the College Avenue parking lot behind TETC.

The parking lot will be on the same-sized footprint as the old tennis courts, according to Eric Berkheimer, associate vice president of facilities and capital management at SU.

Reach Susan Canfora at scanfora@newszap.com.

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