Friday, October 31, 2014

Lawn Tennis Club opens in Michigan with big hopes

Wessen Tennis Club opens in Michigan with 24 grass courts and hopes to attract ATP Tour event

Posted on June 24, 2014 at 7:22 p.m.

PONTIAC, Mich. (AP) — The Wessen Lawn Tennis Club has opened and its owner is hoping to impress the ATP Tour enough to bring a tournament to the Motor City in a couple years.

Bill Massie said he has spent $1.5 million to build 24 outdoor grass courts, adding he has plans to add seven hard and three clay courts in the future.

“My wife thinks I’m crazy and thinks this better work,” he said Tuesday.

Former pro Armand Molino, who tested he rain-slicked surface during the grand opening, said the courts have the same ryegrass as Wimbledon.

“It’s fantastic,” Molino said. “It’s going to take some time for the ground to settle, but I’m amazed by the quality of the bounce.”

Massie said he spent approximately $300,000 a year ago to buy an abandoned Water Works building and eight acres of property surrounding it, along with about 40 acres adjacent to it. A state board is overseeing Pontiac’s finances and the city has been under state control since 2009.

“This building was built in 1919, was a community center in the 1970s and was slated for demolition,” Massie said. “For over 10 years, it was vacant.”

Now, it is vibrant.

Massie is marketing memberships for $5,000 to access the courts, a swimming pool and clubhouse, which was built within the brick Water Works building. It has 7,000 square feet of cedar decking, a spectacular teak-wood bar that is about 15 feet long, and comfortable areas to sit under the roof or sky.

U.S. Tennis Association southeastern Michigan district executive director Zori Duda acknowledged she was in “awe,” after visiting the facility.

“It is very impressive and it exceeded my expectations totally,” Duda said. “I hope it does well and that people at least come out and take a look to see what it offers because there’s nothing like this in the Midwest.”

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