TORONTO — For west end tennis players, it seems there’s no place like Howard Park Tennis Club (HPTC).
Embedded in the east end of High Park, HPTC is a home away from home for many of its 570 members, who spend April to October training, competing and socializing at the laid-back west end facility.
Established in 1909, HPTC welcomes both neighbourhood locals as well as loyalists from all ends of the city, as far as Mississauga and even Pembroke.
“I’m from Toronto and moved to Pembroke recently,” said Merven Lane, in his second year as a member.
“I just had to make the six-hour drive back to play again before the season closed. It’s a great club and the people make it even better.”
With a long history that includes Canadian tennis legend Daniel Nestor making appearances for promotional events, former pro Andrew Sznajder and current WTA player Sharon Fichman, who’ve played on its courts in the past, HPTC has been home to passionate tennis players for decades. Originally comprising three courts, the club has grown to house seven hard courts and an updated clubhouse, all framed by its picturesque High Park setting.
The changes have sat well with members, who point to the friendly and inviting nature of the club, as well as a serene ambiance that can be hard to find in the city.
“The clubhouse is very relaxing,” said Harris Daniel, a third year member who was recently appointed to the HPTC board of directors.
“I always feel like I’m at a cottage, especially with all the trees around the tennis courts.”
With staggering growth over the past two seasons, including sold out memberships for the 2013 season and an unprecedented turnout in ladder play, board members at HPTC are proud of the diverse, friendly competition that has developed.
“Not only has there been more match play, but more socializing in general,” said Mark MacDonald, the club’s Vice-President.
“We brought a lot of people together who never would’ve met each other and they were able to make friendships on the basis of that competition. It’s kind of funny how that works actually.”
Boost to overall atmosphere
MacDonald pointed to the growth of the ladder play as a major boost to overall atmosphere, crediting Daniel with taking initiative in making improvements to the system.
“I think the ladder improved this year because it was much more organized,” MacDonald said.
“The turnout increased by about 80 per cent from the previous year, and participation was at an all-time high. The ladder fuelled a lot of competitive nature, which was good to see around here.”
Daniel introduced weekly emails, online results and a points system that contributed to a player’s ranking for the club’s year-end tournament.
“The ladder went better than what I had expected,” said Daniel, in his first year as the club’s Program Coordinator.
“It pretty much became one of the best events this season. There were many members who signed up and actively participated. I think it was a good avenue for them to get to know each other and find themselves hitting partners also.”
Building relationships is a big part of what makes HPTC thrive. Along with competitive programs like the ladder, the club offers social doubles tournaments throughout the season that coincide with the Grand Slams on the pro circuit as well as weekend programs for beginners who want to get some exercise and meet new people, something both Harris and MacDonald are committed to encouraging each year.
With the season winding down (the club’s final day is Oct. 13 though four courts remain open as community courts), Daniel is focused on parlaying the positive momentum into next year’s events.
“I’m hoping to make the ladder program even better than this year. I also want to see house league being more organized, competitive and fun for those who signed up,” said Daniel.
“I’m already thinking of ways to improve it.”