Lake City, with USTA Florida Foundation and State-wide Grants, Begins Tennis Boom Post-COVID
The COVID-19 pandemic and resulting economic downturn took a toll on many local Florida recreation and tennis programs — but nothing like the impact on Lake City, Fla.
A city of a little over 12,000 residents in largely rural Columbia County, Lake City, saw tennis activists and their community tennis association, the Lake City Columbia Community Tennis Association (LCCTA), over the years fighting to keep the sport alive, despite the lack of a public tennis center.
The nationwide COVID-19 shutdown in March of 2020 hit Lake City especially hard, and saw the city pull $700,000 in funding for children’s activities. This included after-school tennis and closing the local Girls Club and Boys Club at Teen Town.
“The City of Lake City no longer has a recreation department,” said Mike Null. “But our CTA [community tennis association] is ready to begin hosting events to bring local youth back to tennis after a lengthy period of no public tennis courts available.”
Today, after the advent of COVID and the withdrawal of city funds, this summer Lake City is holding its first tennis camps in three years behind USTA Florida funding, $6,500 from the Youth Tennis Foundation of Florida for Youth Team Tennis programming and a pro shop, and $10,000 from the Suwannee Valley Community Foundation for court equipment and accessories. Add that to four lighted courts, bleachers, landscaping, and a storage building from the City of Lake City, and tennis in the region as of this summer is surging.
Youth Team Tennis events began in April-May of this year, the first organized events at the new facility. Participants range from age 5-18, with organizers reaching out to underprivileged youth in the city. The equipment grants are crucial, as most players do not have tennis racquets of their own.
The Lake City Columbia Community Tennis Association, combining with regional and state-wide supporters, have shown that tennis through pandemic and economic challenges will not stop offering local children the opportunities to connect socially and keep active through difficult times.
“Our CTA is able to again introduce youth to the sport of tennis and improve the skill level of beginner players,” said Null. “It is a continuation of our mission to promote the development of tennis as a means of healthy recreation and physical fitness for everyone in our community by assisting in the creation of a county-wide community tennis facility.”
About the USTA Florida Section Foundation
With a mission of “Changing Lives through Tennis,” the USTA Florida Section Foundation provides financial support to organizations that help people of all ages and abilities improve their health and quality of life through the great game of tennis. To learn more or to apply for a grant go to ustafloridafoundation.com.