Palm Coast Mayor Milissa Holland hopes to help foster growth of tennis in the community.
With the start of the USTA’s Palm Coast Open on Thursday, Jan. 30, talks for how to grow the game of tennis in the city are in full swing.
Palm Coast Mayor Milissa Holland has a vision for the future of tennis in Palm Coast as well as for the growth of the Palm Coast Tennis Center, located at 1290 Belle Terre Parkway, where the event will be held.
Palm Coast was first marketed as a community that offered several recreational opportunities, and Holland said the many of the residents she has spoken to over the years indicated that that’s why they moved here.
Palm Coast has a rich history of tennis, more so than just for recreational purposes. Tennis players from all over came to play and train at what was formerly known as the Players Club, including famous professionals like Andre Agassi, Michael Chang, Monica Seles, Manuela Maleeva, Jimmy Connors, Todd Martin and Jim Courier.
“I think a tournament of this caliber signifies the strength we have with our amenities in Palm Coast,” Holland said. “It really put Palm Coast on the map for that type of environment.”
As of right now, there are no set plans to expand the Palm Coast Tennis Center, but Holland hopes discussion will start soon.
“I’d just like to see not only events like this come back each year, but hopefully get a few more that would add that value,” she said. “When you have that partnership with different organizations around the world, it has that particular significance for us to hopefully be recognized. We want to continue to help this sport grow and flourish in our city.”
George Opelka, father of 22-year-old tennis star Reilly Opelka, also sees value in growing tennis in Palm Coast as well as adding events like the Palm Coast Open.
The tournament is for players who are trying to earn their way onto the professional tour. Reilly Opelka, who spent significant time training at the Palm Coast Tennis Center in his “early days” learning the game, played in the event when he was 16 years old.
“I don’t think people realize it or appreciate it because it’s not a $1 million tournament,” George Opelka said. “First of all it’s hard to get those. They don’t just fall into your lap. But if you can, it’s great for the community and great for people to see. It goes hand-in-hand with what we’re trying to do in Palm Coast. It’s about lifestyle.”