Facelift underway for tennis center

Yale athletics facilities from Tower Parkway to Derby Avenue will not escape the frenzy of construction projects during the 2007-’08 academic year.

On Aug. 1, Yale broke ground on a project that will renovate and expand the Cullman-Heyman Tennis Center, one of the many initiatives Ray Tompkins House has embarked upon in recent years to improve and enhance athletics facilities. The renovated Center will have eight courts when work is completed, twice the number in the old facility. The new space will also provide teams with new locker rooms and fans with a better viewing experience.

2006-’07 captain Olivia Nix ’07 takes a cut against Penn in one of the last Yale matches played at Cullman-Heyman Tennis Center before renovations began.
Ryan Galisewski
2006-’07 captain Olivia Nix ’07 takes a cut against Penn in one of the last Yale matches played at Cullman-Heyman Tennis Center before renovations began.

Although the current construction will disrupt the practice schedule of Yale’s two varsity tennis teams, the Bulldogs are eager to begin use of the new facility, which should open in early January, Senior Associate Athletics Director Barabara Chesler said.

The Cullman-Heyman renovation is a donor-driven project, led by former Bulldog tennis player Samuel Heyman ’60. Chesler said the project has attracted approximately $13 million from friends and alumni.

The new facility has been in the making for several years, Chesler said, as the process of getting permits and hiring an architect and contractor involved time-consuming stages. The process was also delayed due to the multitude of other construction projects occurring around campus, she said.

Chesler said that although the project is a little behind schedule at the moment, renovations should still be done by the beginning of January.

“That’s just the consequence of any huge construction,” she said. “Things take a little longer than expected, but we’re in a good position.”

Varsity men’s coach Alex Dorato said he has prepared well in advance to make adjustments for the fall portion of the tennis season. Both the men’s and women’s team will practice at a nearby club through the course of the construction.

In the meantime, the entire tennis program eagerly anticipates the grand opening, he said.

“The best feature of the new facility is having eight courts, because they will make practices less congested and allow coaches more court time to work with players individually,” Dorato said. “They will also reduce the amount of time that it takes to play a match and enable Yale to host top regional events, and will help us attract top recruits.”

Women’s coach Danielle Lund concurred, saying that the added flexibility from having more courts will be critical for attracting talent to Yale in future years.

“When it’s all done, I think we’ll have the best in the country,” Lund said.

But Yale’s tennis teams are not the only ones that will eventually benefit from RTH’s construction plans in 2007-’08, Chesler said. Construction began this week on an indoor Golf Technology Center, located on the second floor of Payne Whitney Gymnasium. The space, which will be named in honor of longtime Yale golf coach David Patterson, was gutted over the summer and will open later in the semester.

Restoration of the facade of Payne Whitney Gymnasium and Ray Tompkins House will continue as scheduled. Following concerns about loose pieces on the Payne Whitney tower, Yale erected scaffolding around the main entrance to protect passersby in the spring. A restoration of the facade, which Chesler called a “mammoth project,” will begin in earnest in the coming weeks.

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