Local tennis teams use indoor facilities while outdoor courts dry
Courts Plus in Fargo hosts many girls tennis teams in preparation for the spring season.
FARGO — Spring athletes in North Dakota deal with a number of obstacles prior to the start of the season. From untimely blizzards to cold-spells, springtime weather is hectic.
The unpredictability forces athletes to practice indoors while Mother Nature works her magic. But for some sports, like tennis, specialized indoor facilities bridge the gap during the transition.
Fargo and West Fargo high school girls tennis players utilize facilities like Courts Plus, an indoor tennis facility, in preparation for the spring season. Despite growing pains, the building plays a key role for area teams.
“They’re really good at accommodating the teams when we do need to be inside,” said Fargo South's girls tennis coach Sam Burns. “You have to make adjustments, but you can do a lot of similar things, just not quite as many steps of everything.”
Burns and other tennis coaches reserve times throughout the day, either before or after school, to use the courts. He noted that his team has practiced outside within the past week, and is working out the kinks coming off the indoor practices.
“I think it does take a little bit of time for the kids to get used to (being outside),” Burns said. “It’s been an adjustment seeing the ball with the wind and carrying it a little bit differently outside.”
For athletes that have been cooped up inside for weeks, the ability to get outside comes as a fresh breath of air.
“I think (the players) like that first day outside to be able to have more room and more reps,” Burns said. “When we can get outside and have more of a set schedule, I think the kids benefit from that.”
South was scheduled to play matches on Tuesday and Thursday, but poor court conditions forced the team to postpone. Oliver Summers, the tennis director at Courts Plus, said uneven melting prevents courts from drying.
“A lot of times what happens is the snow melts on the concrete quicker,” Summers said. “Then you’ve got snow around the edges of the court and around the fencing.”
Summers said his facility hosts collegiate events for Concordia and Minnesota State Moorhead — which have seasons extending from mid-February to late-April — and have hosted Eastern Dakota Conference events in the past.
“We don’t typically host (the high school events) unless it’s getting close to the EDC,” Summers said. “Then we might host them because they had some matches postponed.”
When poor court conditions in the past have forced the tournament to be held indoors, Summers said that the EDC tournament has been held at Courts Plus, including last season's EDC event.
The North Dakota High School Activities Association also makes use of Choice Health and Fitness in Grand Forks. The facility is a hybrid-blend of both indoor and outdoor courts, and will host the 2023 North Dakota state tournament.
Tim Wyne, the tennis coordinator at Choice Health and Fitness, said both the University of North Dakota and three high school programs have all been practicing inside while the weather continues to create issues.
The use of indoor facilities, while necessary, comes with a price.
Fargo teams utilizing Courts Plus pay a tax-free rate per use and school administrators remain aware of the unpredictability of North Dakota springs.
“We definitely budget for the fact that we might have some practices inside,” said Mike Beaton, activities director for Fargo South High School.
Beaton also said that having access to facilities like Courts Plus helps kick start the spring tennis season.
The indoor facility remains available for use by its members and caters to area team practices. Despite limited availability at the venue, everyone feels for the athletes looking to start their season.
“We have a good relationship with the public schools,” Summers said. “Everyone who’s in the tennis community feels bad for the schools because normally they would be outside.”
Even if it takes more time to start matches, the South coach remains hopeful that his squad will compete soon.
“You just kind of play it day-by-day and hope eventually the 60s and 70s come out and the sun stays out.”