Last fall, Ridgemark Tennis Club took over their neighborhood courts and started a new athletic era in the largely senior community. Taking on a do-it-yourself approach, the club has climbed from just 30 members to over 70 in several months.
Over the years, tennis players in the Ridgemark neighborhood, one of the few in Hollister with courts, painfully watched their facilities go downhill. The courts needed to be resurfaced, painted, and nets replaced. Despite paying dues regularly, no one seemed to care. Things were looking seedy. Members expected their dues to cover upkeep, but as the years passed, the monthly financial contribution didn’t appear to benefit the facility.
“Membership had dropped, courts were not maintained and we had very low enthusiasm,” said Bob Tiffany, a 20-year member.
Tiffany said they had approached the previous Ridgemark manager, Alex Kheriotis, but to no avail.
In August 2015, John Wynn purchased the property. He then brought in Sierra Golf Management, Inc., based in Chowchilla, CA to manage the golf course, restaurant, hotel rooms, central community multipurpose room, and tennis courts.
“When Sierra took over, we had an initial meeting with tennis members and Sierra," Tiffany said. "It didn't go great."
Still, Tiffany and fellow tennis club members Christine Breen and Graham Mackie were determined to find a solution, so they met with Ridgemark owner Wynn and found him to be sympathetic.
“We felt we had his support”, Tiffany said. “We couldn’t pull off leasing it directly from him so we ended up subleasing the courts and a small clubhouse from Sierra.”
In an email, Wynn explained his perspective.
“I decided to invest in the resurfacing of the tennis courts, because the tennis club is a feature that sets Ridgemark apart," Wynn wrote. "It is in a beautiful setting, and has a membership dating back 30 years."
The club decided to form their own mutual nonprofit corporation. “Basically to get it going for everyone’s benefit and not as a business venture,” Tiffany explained. The tennis club would pay rent for the courts at $1,000 a month, allowing them to make decisions about getting work done, bringing in a professional, and resurfacing the courts which they expected to cost around $26,000.
“We wanted our dues to go to our own club and figured we could do the work ourselves and make the improvements we wanted,” Tiffany explained.
Fortunately, Wynn appreciated the “can do” attitude and saw it would add value to his property. He agreed to put in half the cost of resurfacing the courts for $13,000.
The leadership decided to bring in more players, lower the monthly dues for singles to $50, couples to $75, and families to $95.
They asked for a full-year membership up front to cover the resurfacing cost. Members paid enough to not only resurface the tennis courts, but also install new courts for pickleball, an easy to learn, fast-growing sport that is not as strenuous as tennis.
“It’s this huge phenomenon and just natural to have it out here," Tiffany added. "It's one of California’s fastest growing sports."
Benjy Robins, the tennis pro at CordeValle Golf Club and Resort in San Martin, will be the visiting pro for club clinics and lessons.
“He was on the pro circuit and was also a manager on the pro tour, so he knows everybody,” Tiffany said.
Members volunteer their time to keep costs down. “We have Friday socials and we all get together for work days,” he said, pointing out their small clubhouse.
When it all started, Tiffany, Mackie, and Breen didn’t know where they were going to end up.
“We were sticking our necks out,” Tiffany admitted. “We were confident that if we could resurface the courts and lower our fees, we could get more members… and that is exactly what happened!”
As for the members taking on the business and administrative side of tennis at Ridgemark, member Rebecca Pearson said, "I appreciate the time they have dedicated to all the many details it takes to do that. We have a wonderful group who play together up there, and it's been a part of my fitness and social life here for about 14 years."
Facilities owner Wynn sees the improvements not only as maintaining an asset, but that it may end up being a calling card.
“As I look toward developing the Ridgemark project, a vibrant tennis club is just one of many things I plan to offer,” Wynn wrote.
Today about half the club is made up of original members, but the other half is brand new. Ridgemark Tennis Club members do not have to live there to join and use the courts. At time of publication, the club boasts 75 members.
This summer, the club plans to set up a United States Tennis Association-sponsored junior program for kids.
Tiffany, now club president, said, “We’re hoping to really get more people into tennis at a young age. Already we have junior clinics given by one of our members, Rebecca Pearson, that has been attracting new players.”
“We hope that this will start bringing more and more enthusiasm for tennis in the community," Tiffany said. "Dunne Park (in Hollister) has tennis and pickleball and the (San Benito) high school now has courts that will be available to the public."
Pearson is currently giving lessons to kids in 4th through 8th grade. She said high school tennis is a lot less competitive than some other sports, so there is more opportunity.
"Besides that, tennis is a wonderful family game and is one that people play well into their 80's," Pearson said. "The best part is that it only takes one other person to have a match."
Ridegmark Tennis Club contact information: email Roni Culler- email@example.com, or call Bob Tiffany- 831-630-2202 . Or go to Ridgemark Tennis Club Facebook page.