BLOOMINGTON — A club that opened 45 years ago to let local tennis enthusiasts play during winter has become a community fixture because it's stayed up to date while building partnerships beyond its walls, according to several longtime members.
With winter just around the corner, Evergreen Racquet Club is celebrating its 45th anniversary as it completes facility upgrades valued at more than $260,000.
"Evergreen remains relevant because tennis remains relevant," Ben Snyder said Monday in the club, 3203 E. Washington St., Bloomington. Snyder was part of the original group of investors, has been a member since the club opened in 1972 and was president of the board of directors for the first 42 years.
"We've done our best to keep it up to modern standards," Snyder said.
Evergreen has more than 1,000 members ages 3 to 92, said General Manager Colleen Curran. Services include tennis instruction, tennis fitness, leagues and competitive teams.
"We offer tennis for casual players and competitive players," including United States Tennis Association league play and sanctioned tournaments, said Henry Alexander, a member of Evergreen's tennis advisory committee.
"I started playing here in year five and I'm still a member in year 45 because this club has had what I needed during every level of life," said John Robertson, a board member.
Evergreen also is the indoor home for Illinois Wesleyan University tennis, the Special Olympics state tennis tournament and a "tennis buddies" program in which high school tennis players are partnered with adults with Down syndrome, Curran said. Of Evergreen's seven tennis pros, five coach at local high schools or at IWU, tightening partnerships between the club and community, she said.
"Friendships have developed here," said Curran, who first played at Evergreen when she was in high school in the 1970s. "That's as important as the tennis."
"It's become a real community asset," said Gregg McElroy, president of Evergreen's board of directors.
Last year, Evergreen replaced the original light fixtures for its eight courts with custom LED lights specifically designed for tennis courts, McElroy said. While that project cost $180,000, the results are better light and energy and maintenance savings that will pay for the project in five years, Curran said.
Resurfacing of all eight courts was completed in August at a cost of $70,000 and the viewing lounge was recently renovated to the tune of $10,000 with a tribute area to longtime member Benoni Green, who died last year, and construction of The Loft, an area for Pilates classes, fitness seminars, tennis strategy sessions and advisory board meetings.
Yearly membership fees are $100 for members college age and younger, $150 for adults and $250 for families, Curran said.