Winter Tennis 

Winter Serve: Liberty Park’s bubble-topped tennis courts keep the love going year-round.

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There’s a fairly scientific theory that casual tennis players will flock to the sport—much like folks who overindulge during the holidays seek treadmills—when the major summer tournaments can be found on television. Liberty Park tries to keep that feeling of love—and 15, 30 and 40—going all year long when it raises the protective bubble over four of its courts.

There’s no need to become a member, either, and employee Sylvia Robb says the courts are packed during the cold months of winter and spring. Yet it’s still simple enough to walk in with a racquet and get some exercise. “We’ve got everything going on during the winter,” Robb says. “There’re different workout groups and all sorts of activities based upon someone’s level of play. We have leagues, youth groups and cardio activities for people who just want a good workout.”

Though the white, arching bubble stands out in Liberty Park and is located along busy 500 East, it may be one of the area’s best-kept athletic secrets. It looks fancy and all, and when installed about six years ago, it came with a price tag—even after being purchased used, in the neighborhood of a half-million dollars. There has been talk of raising another one, but some concerns from nearby residents and the need for another hefty chunk of change have ruled out the idea for the time being.

Robb says it’s still easy to get onto the court, either in a group setting or to make a call and reserve space for a nominal fee. Play in prime hours of the day, indoors, and it’s still just $20-an-hour for the court. Willing to save some cash by throwing on some warm clothes? The 12 remaining outdoor courts stay open year-round and can be had for $5 an hour. So, play a doubles match, and that’s about a buck a person.

Robb says the facility gets about 6,000 visitors a year, and it’s also the site for some college practices and major tournaments like the Utah state high school and various regional competitions. Liberty Park has also been proactive exposing youths to tennis, who wouldn’t normally think of it as an exercise option.

J.D. Williams found himself at the courts Oct. 29 on what was a sunny, brisk day. He was visiting from out of town, on business, and happens to pack a racquet and can of balls whether he’s headed to Phoenix or colder climes. “It’s a great sport,” Williams says. “There aren’t a whole lot of places to go around here, but I found it out through a business partner. I guess I’m not the only one. I’ve heard about pilots and other out-of-towners doing this. The facility and courts are in great shape, too, compared to most public courts.”

Robb notes that there are even shower facilities, so players can break a sweat and leave it there.

Liberty Park also boasts quite the fleet of teaching pros. Robb’s daughter, Debbie, is the director and has played in the U.S. Open. A law yer by trade, lobbing (not lobbying) is her first love. The former University of Utah player was sought out by former mayor Rocky Anderson when he was trying to refurbish Liberty Park.

There’s also John Bennett, a former BYU player who offers quite the conversation starter: He’s been the personal coach for Robert Redford.

So there’s no reason not to stick with tennis, even in the snow, and avoid chasing Federer and Nadal.

Sylvia Robb points out that if a player gets really addicted, the club affords people a chance to buy season bubble passes.

Good from now until spring, a set time can be reserved each week.

“Some people try it, and they just get really into it,” Sylvia says. “There’s a great crew here, and the teachers are loved by everyone who comes in. It’s a good, social sport that can be played at all ages.”

And, at Liberty Park, it can be played in all temperatures.

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