One of the best examples of successful volunteerism in our community is the success of the Salmon Arm tennis club that now provides year-round opportunities to enjoy the game. Their new indoor state-of-the-art facility, which was sponsored by Askews, is open to both its over 200 members and to the public seven days a week.
Tennis has been played in Salmon Arm since the early 1900s when there was a court near the lake. In the 1930s, an elevated wooden court was built with 2x4s near where the intersection of 5th Ave. and 7th St. NE are today, which was used up until WWII and then was used for boys’ ball hockey.
The sport began to grow sometime in the 1950s when two tennis courts were built on the fields below the old J.L. Jackson School and a tennis club formed under the leadership of Henry Sivertz, Ken Kolkind and Shirley Lyall. After the first Fly Hills fire in 1973, the city, thanks to the efforts of the then Deputy Mayor Al Bianco, took advantage of infrastructure funding to build four courts at Shuswap Junior Secondary and four more at Salmon Arm Secondary.
By the mid-1970s there were 16 courts in the community, however there was no system put in place for upkeep and due to the lack of consistent maintenance, most became unusable. Fortunately, there was a still a group of committed tennis enthusiasts in the community and in 1977 they formed a registered society, which then leased land once used for a refuse dump adjacent to Little Mountain Park.
From the very beginning, volunteers were responsible for most of the development of the tennis facility and many local businesses donated materials and equipment time, including the site preparation by Blackburn Construction. The four, well-surfaced courts opened in 1978 and one year later a clubhouse was added. Improvements continued such as the lighting system that was installed in 2005 and thanks to fruitful cooperation with the city, a secure lease has helped the club obtain financing to help with increasing expenses.
In 2010, the club received a grant from Tennis Canada to study the feasibility of building an indoor facility. Construction began in 2018 and when the cost of steel increased substantially, the only way the work could continue was for most of it to be done by volunteers, all of them seniors! Since the Askews Tennis Centre opened in the winter of 2019, its three well lit courts have been well used by tennis players of all ages from 7am until 10:30pm.
The Tennis Club has always been family oriented since its inception by welcoming all levels of players from beginners to tournament competitors. It sponsors a range of learning opportunities, as there are over 50 youth currently taking lessons and club instructors have taught tennis in the schools to over 400 elementary students. Thanks to the Canadian Tire jumpstart program, over 300 racquets have been provided to many budding young players.
As they learn, the students progress through four levels using three different colour balls (red, orange and green), with each colour having more bounce until they are ready for standard balls. Fortunately, the club has several certified coaches who provide both private and semi-private lessons for both members and non-members, including adults.
Salmon Arm Tennis Club director Ken Hecker, has been a keen member and helpful volunteer for many years. He credits the City of Salmon Arm for their support of recreation in the community, as they are “committed to fostering a quality of life for their citizens.” The very successful Tennis Club is but one example of the many recreation groups in Salmon Arm that benefit from the many opportunities the city offers for its active, engaged residents, who in turn are eager to volunteer their time to help others enjoy life to the fullest.
After the clubhouse was built in 1979, it was named the “Tahena House to acknowledge the work of three tennis club leaders, Ahti Takamkaki, Ken Hecker and Doug Hlina. In 2005, to extend the playing hours into the evenings, state-of-the-art Musco lighting was installed on all four courts. Since the club was established 44 years ago, membership has averaged between 150-200 player, it has become known as one of the best tennis organizations in the B.C. interior and it has received national recognition with several members winning major tournaments including the National Miele Team Championship in 2010. In a recent tennis magazine article, Salmon Arm Tennis Club director Winston Pain has called the completion of the $2,800,000 three court indoor facility in a community of just 20,000 people a “miracle!”
Learn more about the club and/or book a court to play tennis at the STC website.