Brenau University opened one of the area’s only indoor tennis facilities with an exhibition game from the school’s tennis team, the Brenau Golden Tigers, on Tuesday.
"It’s a great day for Brenau, it’s a great day for our tennis team to have this kind of facility which means we can practice no matter what the weather is," said Gordon Leslie, Brenau’s athletic director and head tennis coach.
Built by Carroll Daniel Construction Co. of Gainesville this summer, the 48-foot-tall building covers two of the existing tennis courts and features roll-up doors on each side of the structure that can be opened during fair weather, according to a report from Brenau.
Leslie said the addition is exciting for the team, which competes in the Southern States Athletic Conference of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics and won national titles in 1999 and 2002.
The tennis team practices 24 weeks of the year, and practice for the spring season begins in January and presses through some of the area’s most inhospitable months, Leslie said.
"From the very beginning, we’ve had just an excellent tennis program at Brenau," University President Ed Schrader said. "The main hampering element as far as having great teams is we weren’t able to have year-round practice because of the weather."
Brenau’s facility is the only indoor tennis facility in Northeast Georgia, and the nearest facility is in Atlanta, Leslie said.
Plans for the enclosure had been on hold for nearly four years until the university received a donation of $330,000 for its construction in May, Leslie said.
"Without that kind of generosity this wouldn’t be possible," Leslie said at the opening ceremony for the indoor facility Tuesday.
An anonymous donor contributed the money in memory of the late Charles Smithgall Jr., the founder of The Times and Gainesville’s first radio station, WGGA who helped pay for the existing tennis center. The existing tennis center is named for Smithgall’s wife, Lessie Smithgall, who is an emeritus member of Brenau’s board of trustees.
"(The Smithgall family) has just been so supportive of tennis education — both the teaching of playing and the teaching of watching tennis all over the U.S.," Schrader said.