62 Days of Summer
When actor/tennis player Vince Van Patten came to Schenectady’s Central Park during the summer of 1987, it was love at first sight.
Here was a place where he could play world-class tennis and then pack up his racquets, take a short stroll through a beautiful grove of evergreens, and then take a dip in an outdoor swimming hole.
Some of the best tennis players in the world have performed at the Capital Region’s premier tennis facility, and while you can no longer watch the OTB Open and World TeamTennis there, it continues to attract serious players as well as hearty weekend warriors.
As public facilities go, it reigns supreme in upstate New York. The home base for both the Schenectady and Niskayuna high school teams, it also hosts regional National Tennis Rating Program events. But it’s not the only park venue in the area to offer a wonderful tennis experience.
At Saratoga Spa State Park, the opportunity to play clay court tennis for free is so incredibly enticing that lovers of the game sometimes drive 25 to 30 miles for the experience. And if your backhand and forehand aren’t working, the beautiful surroundings — tall pines, green fields and lovely architecture — render the condition of your game irrelevant. Sitting among the tall pines during a changeover, with the Spa Little Theater off to one side and the Gideon Putnam off to the other, both visible through the trees, it’s hard to get too upset about anything.
While much smaller than Central Park — there are only four Har-tru (artificial clay) courts — the venue is a must for tennis players, especially those middle-aged and older who prefer the soft playing surface. Up until six years ago, the courts were made of natural clay and were in horrible shape, but thanks to Friends of Saratoga Spa State Park that all changed. Led by Dan Blanchfield and Tom Buckley, two regular users of the facility, the courts are kept in great condition.
And did I mention it’s free?
“We work together with the Friends group, and once a season we get a contractor to come in and replace all the bad material,” said Michael Greenslade, the park manager. “They level things off and put down the lines, and then the Friends take over and do all the daily maintenance.”
There are also four hardcourts at the location, but they are basically unplayable, a problem Greenslade and the Friends hope to correct sometime soon.
“They won’t be clay, but we are hoping to get the hardcourts renovated sometime in the next two years,” said Greenslade.
For tennis players who don’t mind a hard playing surface — and a scenic Lake George setting — the two hardcourts at Rogers Memorial Park in Bolton Landing will fill the bill. And, if your tennis game isn’t at its best, a nice sandy beach on New York’s most popular body of water is only a few steps away.
Parking in Rogers Memorial Park is $5, but the view of the lake and the mountains is well worth it. Those on a tight budget, however, can park on Route 9N and walk into the park to use the courts for free.
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