The Tennis Center had been closed since March 22 because of concerns related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Friday morning’s weather was picturesque and reminiscent of why many people choose to call Longboat Key home.
Comfortable temperatures and an abundance of sunshine graced the courts at the Longboat Key Tennis Center, which opened for the first time since March 22 because of concerns related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It’s been a long vacation away from this sport,” Longboat resident David Glorius said. “The first opportunity we could get, we took it.”
Glorius and Kate Rhodes were the first two players to take the courts at 7:30 a.m. Friday when the Tennis Center reopened.
“We wanted to honor Kay [Thayer],” Rhodes said. “It’s her birthday today. I thought we’d give her a birthday present by saying ‘Good Morning.’”
Thayer manages the Tennis Center along with the help of head tennis professional Claudiu Retean. Both have worked to reopen the facility to the public.
The Tennis Center has several restrictions in place, including limited hours, members only, using every other court, singles play only and players using their own tennis balls.
“A lot of the players out here are not necessarily singles players, but they're just so happy to be back out here that they'll come out and just hit the ball around,” Thayer said.
Glorius said he did not feel any trepidation about playing during Friday’s reopening.
“A lot of us play doubles tennis, and this is really kind of restricting us because we have to play singles,” Glorius said. “I look forward to the opening of doubles as well because I think of the camaraderie.”
The canopy on each of the courts has hand sanitizer and signs warning the players not to use the water fountains.
“It was great to be back out here,” said Longboat resident Fran Van Zandt. “[It] was challenging to play with these new rules, but we get it. I’d rather be playing with these new rules than not playing. It’s wonderful.”
Van Zandt said she planned to come back to play again next week.
“We are doubles players,” Van Zandt said. “This is a total challenge, but it was great.”
Several of the Tennis Center’s restrictions abide by recommendations set forth by the United States Tennis Association. Some of the measures in place are similar to precautions taken by the Longboat Key Club, which has kept its tennis courts open on a limited basis throughout the pandemic.
The town, Tennis Center and Longboat Key Club have had conversations to see what’s been effective.
“We’re pretty much following the same guidelines,” said Longboat Key Club director of tennis Briana Francois. “A lot of us have the same members.”
Francois said tennis players at the Key Club have been “super supportive” of the regulations in place. The Key Club has opened four more courts for members and expanded its hours to remain open until 2:30 p.m.
“That’s the nice thing about a good community is you talk to each other,” Rhodes said. “What’s been working for us? What’s been working for them? And they’re going to share, ‘try this’ or 'try that.’”
Thayer said if all goes well, she is hopeful the town will allow the Tennis Center to loosen regulations in the coming weeks.
“I'm hopeful that when the town says we're ready to move on to the next phase, that we'll be able to do lessons and do doubles because most of the people here like to play doubles,” Thayer said.
Thayer also said she hopes the Tennis Center can open more courts depending on how the next few weeks go. She said she was happy to reopen.
“It’s just had been very weird to be here and have all these tennis courts and nobody out playing tennis…the nets down,” Thayer said of the weeks-long closure. “It’s a different feel. It’s like the feel of maybe when a hurricane is going to come and you [have] to do all the preparations. It’s just, it’s kind of a quieter feel than the normal buzz that is around here.”
Hopefully, the reopening of the Tennis Center is the first of many for the town of Longboat Key.
“The hardest thing has been being quarantined,” Glorius said. “A lot of us are very social people. This is the best part of it, being able to get back out.”