Tennis pro David Sparks is leaving the Longboat Key Public Tennis Center, where he has worked since its inception. He says it’s because he isn’t a teenager anymore.
“It’s a young guy’s job,” he says.
Sparks is one of the few remaining original employees of the Tennis Center. When it opened in November 1998, Sparks joined the Public Tennis Center employees as one of two of its pros.
“It was an unbelievably great experience,” he says of his past 13 years.
He’s seen it all: a small shed-like building transformed into a 1,750-square-foot, two-story building housing the pro shop office, restrooms and showers and the center growing from six to 10 courts.
“The Tennis Center has done more for our community for Longboat Key than anything else,” he says.
But the bigger facility wasn’t what made the huge impact on Sparks — it was the people. He says he will remember most the individuals he has worked with and for.
“It is just a special place,” he says. “It really brings people together.”
Sparks says he will visit Longboat Key often.
“He’s been here since the beginning ... he’s part of the center,” says Kay Thayer manager of the Tennis Center. “He won’t be easily replaced.”
The Longboat Key Public Tennis Center has already courted a new pro, Eric Hinchman, who has started giving lessons. Hinchman worked as the tennis pro at The Colony Beach & Tennis Resort from 2006 to its close.
“I’m happy to be back out on Longboat!” Hinchman says.
If You Go
Celebration for David Sparks
When: 5 to 7 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 5
Where: Gulf Drive Café, Anna Maria Island
Info: Call 316-8367