32963 Homepage

Want to purchase reprints of your favorite 32963 or photos?

Copies of Vero Beach 32963 can be obtained at the following locations:


Our office HQ: (located at 4855 North A1A)
1. Corey's Pharmacy
2. 7-Eleven

(South A1A)
3. Major Real Estate Offices


1. Vero Beach Book

2. Classic Car Wash
3. Divine Animal
4. Sunshine Furniture

5. Many Medical

Net gain: Positive changes in store at Riverside Park courts

STORY BY RAY MCNULTY (Week of March 2, 2023)

Tennis players in Vero Beach can expect to see some improvements this spring at the 10-court Riverside Park complex on the barrier island.

“The first thing they’ll notice,” said Laura Bowen, executive director of the United States Tennis Association’s Florida Section, “is that there will be a human being there all day, and maybe more than one.”

In the coming weeks, USTA Florida plans to recruit and hire a full-time head tennis professional and other staff for the Riverside Park Tennis Complex.

Local tennis players also might see four of the courts being resurfaced, though Bowen said the association hadn’t yet hired a contractor and the work probably won’t start until later in the spring.

These positive changes – along with new programs designed to get more people playing there – are part of USTA Florida’s takeover of the operations and maintenance of the city-owned and long-underutilized facility.

The Vero Beach City Council unanimously approved a three-year licensing agreement with USTA Florida at last week’s meeting, as applause filled the chamber. The final vote was the culmination of more than a year of negotiations between the parties.

USTA Florida plans to be fully managing the facility by June.

“They have a proven track record of working with other municipalities around the state, and we are thrilled to have them as our partner,” City Recreation Director Jim O’Connell said of USTA Florida, adding that the agreement will be a “win for our residents and a major boost for tennis in Vero Beach.”

The Riverside Park courts will become the fourth municipal tennis facility managed by USTA Florida, joining the Racquet Club of Cocoa Beach, Fort Walton Beach Tennis Center and the tennis complexes in four parks in Gainesville.

According to USTA Florida, which will pay the city $500 per month to lease the Riverside complex, tennis participation in the state has grown by nearly half a million players since the nonprofit association took on its first municipal facility in 2018.

“We got into this business five years ago to help save public tennis centers that were at risk of closing or struggling to keep players,” USTA Florida President Phil Girardi said. “Today, tennis is booming, and we are expanding our business to help municipalities deliver the best possible tennis experience and programs to their communities.”

City Manager Monte Falls said the partnership complements the City Council’s desire to expand the tennis programs and increase play at Riverside, while continuing the existing round-robin events and other activities there.

The agreement also will save the city $55,000 in staff salaries, he added.

The memberships purchased by current users of the facility will be honored, Bowen said, adding that rates and fees for existing programs will continue to be set by the city. USTA Florida will set prices for new programs it plans to add, such as youth clinics and a summer tennis camp for juniors.

Also, Bowen said, the complex will continue to provide the public with free court time, probably during the afternoon hours when most tennis facilities aren’t busy.

She said it was too soon to say whether Riverside will offer USTA Adult League competition, but the city’s agreement with St. Edward’s School – which uses the park’s courts for practice and matches – was “built into the contract.”

Falls said the three-year agreement gives USTA Florida time to establish its programs and evaluate its investment here, while not locking the city into a long-term contract.

“It’s a short-term commitment,” Falls said, “so we’re not tied into a long-term deal until we each find out how we get along together.”

Or as Bowen put it: “Both sides are taking a leap of faith.”

The city resurfaced six of Riverside’s tennis courts last spring. Under the agreement, USTA Florida will pay to resurface the other four courts, with the project expected to be completed before summer.

Among those who addressed the City Council during the public-comment segment of last week’s meeting was longtime Windsor Club tennis director Tom Fish, who decades ago taught his son, Mardy, and daughter, Meredith, on the Riverside courts.

Mardy Fish went on to play professionally on the ATP Tour, reach No. 7 in the world rankings, win a silver medal at the 2004 Olympics and serve as the U.S. Davis Cup captain for four years before stepping down in January.

The younger Fish said his tennis dreams began at Riverside Park, and they eventually took him to some of the game’s grandest stages – including the U.S. Open’s Arthur Ashe Stadium and Wimbledon’s Centre Court – adding, “I hope that more players can start to realize their own dreams on those very same courts.”

In addition, the Mardy Fish Children’s Foundation hopes to work with USTA Florida and use the Riverside courts for some of its youth-tennis activities.

“The tennis facility will finally be brought up to the standards that match the beauty of the rest of the Riverside Park area,” said Lynn Southerly, the foundation’s executive director, who called the agreement a “win-win situation.”

Four other residents addressed the City Council, but only one voiced opposition to the USTA Florida takeover, saying it wasn’t necessary. Among those who supported the agreement were former councilwoman Honey Minuse and now-retired teaching pro Ted Macbeth, who once ran the tennis programs at Riverside.

USTA Florida Past President Dana Andrews praised the professional tone of the negotiations, and predicted a successful partnership.

“When I first stepped foot in this park, I knew exactly why the residents love it,” she said. “If there was a postcard for Florida tennis, this place would be on the front.”