Camilla Sutherland, a Fresno native, learned to play tennis on the Roeding Park courts, and now, she’s the tennis club’s president leading efforts to see that the courts there thrive.
“Just the other day, a family was here playing tennis and having a picnic. That’s what we want. That’s what the park should be used for.” — Camilla Sutherland, president, Roeding Park Tennis Club
The Roeding Park Tennis Club, founded almost 100 years ago in 1931, is home to a tight-knit group of 140 tennis players and four competitive teams.
“We know all the people here, they become like family,” says tennis player Connie Carte.
Sutherland and other club members have been working on improving the park, trying to create a place for community members of all ages to come and enjoy tennis.
“Just the other day, a family was here playing tennis and having a picnic. That’s what we want. That’s what the park should be used for,” Sutherland says.
Tennis Court Renovations and Pickleball Courts, Too
This effort has involved working with community members, Roeding Park maintenance workers, and city officials.
For example, Sutherland has been meeting with Arron Aguirre, who is Fresno’s Director of Parks, After School, Recreation, and Community Services. Their conversations are focused on needed changes and facility improvements.
“Our management staff out there works really closely with the tennis club … and so we’re always hearing ideas about what they might be looking for, and they will certainly be engaged very closely as we go into the community engagement,” says project administrator Edward Chinevere.
The city is planning to resurface the 11 tennis courts at a cost of $380,000. In addition, three courts in disrepair will be converted into pickleball courts and other sports courts/fields depending on feedback from the community, at a cost of $1.6 million. This money is allocated through the Measure P sales tax.
A Community Epicenter With Nice Amenities: Arias
Dates for in-person meetings where the community can give direct suggestions and feedback on the designs will be announced “within the next month or so,” according to Chinereve.
“Since that’s such a big project, it’s going to have such a major impact on that park. We’ll make sure that we engage the community, so that we really understand what the needs are.”
On July 20, QK Inc., a Fresno firm, was appointed by the city council to design the new courts in Roeding Park and assist in community outreach. Chinevere expects designs to be done by June 2024, and construction to start in the 2025 fiscal year.
A separate project, funded with about $2.5 million via Measure P, involves replacing all public restrooms at Roeding Park. The city is also pouring millions into new playgrounds, dog parks, pedestrian bridges for safe and easy travel to Roeding Park, and transforming nearby Motel Way into permanent affordable housing.
“It will become an epicenter with the same amenities you find at Woodward Park, that will connect residents and neighborhoods,” says city councilmember Miguel Arias, who represents the neighborhoods near Roeding Park.
In addition, the tennis club’s board is working with the city and homeless hotline workers to help move unhoused people camping there into housing facilities.
A Place Where Kids Can Learn and Enjoy Tennis
With a major facelift coming for the tennis courts and Roeding Park, the club is trying to bring attention to the park and change the stereotypes about it.
This is mainly done through events or programs put on by the club. They are hosting kids’ tennis lessons taught by Sunnyside High School tennis coach and professional Dave Carte.
The club also hosts U.S. Tennis Association tournaments, allowing tennis players to see the courts and hopefully continue to play there.
“We want to make investments in our park that enliven them, and you know, really increase the activity in those parks. … It creates an atmosphere in that park that just increases the value that that park can provide to our communities,” says Chinereve.