Tuesday, December 7, 2021

Recent changes at the Racquet Center are a big hit

Alex Galiana (left) and Bryan Milk have dedicated many hours to improving the Racquet Club.

Alex Galiana (left) and Bryan Milk have dedicated many hours to improving the Racquet Club.

By Natalie Strom

The Marco Island Racquet Center has been a fixture on the island for many years.  Members of the Racquet Club know its benefits, however, what does the average Marco Islander really know about this not-so-hidden treasure? As tennis is such a popular sport in Southwest Florida, tennis players have a large variety of courts to choose from. When such a variety is available, it is easy to pick out the facility that best suits your needs. The Marco Island Racquet Club is quickly becoming that type of facility. And most tennis players on Marco Island would agree. Marco Island Parks and Recreation Director, Bryan Milk and Recreation Administrative Supervisor, Alex Galiana have been working hard with the City of Marco, Racquet Club members and Marco citizens to take this already pristine sporting venue to the next level.

Originally owned by Collier County, the Racquet Center was acquired by Marco Island in 1998 after Marco officially became a city. Marco Island Parks and Recreation inherited a racquet center with two racquetball courts, a practice wall and eight tennis courts. Two tennis courts are asphalt, four are Har-Tru Clay courts and two are made of Classic Clay. Alex Galiana manages the facility with the help of a part-time staff.

Since the acquisition, Parks and Recreation has worked hand in hand with both the City of Marco Island as well as Racquet Center members to further improve the existing facility. One important change came about in 2005 just after Hurricane Wilma. All the lights in the facility had blown over, but have since been replaced. This past year, at the urging of members and Marco Island residents, a pickle ball court was installed. Pickle ball is played on a smaller court than tennis and uses paddles rather than racquets. Due to the popularity of the sport, pickle ball memberships are now available at the Racquet Center. The two racquetball courts have also seen some changes. The building housing these courts has been fitted with new dehumidifiers as well as new thermostats to give the rooms a cool, crisp feel.

The biggest change the Racquet Center is seeing is the modification of many of the tennis courts. The two asphalt courts have just been resurfaced. Also, the two courts that are made of Classic Clay, which can best be described as artificial turf, will soon be resurfaced to Har-tru

Courts at the Racquet Club are in pristine condition. Photos by Natalie Strom

Courts at the Racquet Club are in pristine condition. Photos by Natalie Strom

courts. Har-tru courts are considered the most popular type of court to play on. Consisting of real clay, players find they can slide easier and the ball bounces more consistently. The change of these two courts to the Har-tru variety also gives the Racquet Center a tremendous advantage. The center will be able to host United States Tennis Association (USTA) sanctioned tournaments. As a self-sustaining facility, the Racquet Center will be able to increase its annual budget by hosting such tournaments.

The replacement of the Classic Clay courts was a very important issue to the members of the Racquet Center. The courts were not acceptable and membership decreased due to less enjoyable playing courts. As the budget did not consist of money to replace the courts, the members got together and hosted a raffle in January of this year. Over $4,000 was raised by the raffle alone and another $4,000 was raised through donations. This was over half the cost needed to replace the courts. The City of Marco Island was also involved in helping raise money. As Bryan Milk explains, “to have a relationship with the community and have it be a positive relationship has put a different spin on this whole facility. I think City Council has seen it and the City Manager has seen it and that’s why they’ve invested back into the Racquet Center.”

Alex Galiana can attest to the change in the atmosphere of the center due to the renovations. “If you ask around to some of the members, they’re going to tell you it’s a friendlier place… the members can feel that they have an input and that we’re listening to them.” Alex has even established monthly meetings with the captains of different tennis groups at the facility to discuss any issues the members feel are important. So far these meetings have led to even more positive changes.

The Racquet Center, at 1275 San Marco Road, offers many different membership packages as well as tennis programs for children and adults. Those who are not members may also play at the Racquet Club for a set charge during certain hours. The best news of all, however, is that residents of Marco Island can play free between the hours of 1:00 PM and 4:00 PM every day. For more information on all the Racquet Center offers, visit their pro shop or call at (239) 394-5454.

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