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Whistler Tennis Association holding out hope for Northlands

Will three-decade-old promise finally be fulfilled?
n-tennis-28.26-file-by-DAN-FALLOON
After more than three decades, the Whistler Tennis Association is still waiting for the promise of a world-class tennis facility to be fulfilled.

With the public input period for an enhanced rezoning north of Whistler Village underway, one Whistler club is holding out hope that a long-neglected promise will finally come to fruition.

The Whistler Tennis Association (WTA) has been eyeing the undeveloped Northlands lot for a new world-class, weatherproof tennis centre since it was first promised back in 1988.

That commitment—for a new club complete with a stadium court, four indoor and 12 outdoor courts, and the capacity to host live televised events—was tied to the development rights of Park Georgia, which built the Montebello Townhouses on the site, but never fully delivered on its promise.

In 1993, Park Georgia did build three indoor courts, seven outdoor courts and a dining facility (all currently operated by the Whistler Racket Club), but those facilities were always meant to be temporary.

In 2002 the land was purchased by the Holborn Group, which in turn sold it to Beedie Developments in 2017.

All the while, the WTA has never forgotten the world-class facility it once thought was inevitable.

“I think we’re not taking anything for granted. Obviously there’s going to be some natural concern … there’s a little bit of fear that history repeats itself here,” said WTA president Ben Cherniavsky, noting that a previous incarnation of the WTA, the Whistler Valley Tennis Club, lost a facility on the shores of Nita Lake when the land it occupied was sold in the mid ‘90s. 

“I think among the members, and there are many members who go back that far, there is some apprehension that we’re going to see that happen again.”

That said, there is still an “air of confidence,” but not overconfidence, amongst the WTA and its 800 or so members.

“We’re not always going to be 100-per-cent aligned, but what I would say that Beedie has so far been very good at is listening to our concerns,” Cherniavsky said.

While the amenities that eventually get built on the Northlands will be decided through the Resort Municipality of Whistler’s enhanced rezoning process, a representative from Beedie said the proponent is in regular contact with both the WTA and Whistler Racket Club (a separate entity from the WTA, which currently leases its space on the Northlands from Beedie).

“We are independent bodies, but we have a common vision to include tennis in the future of Whistler,” Cherniavsky said of the relationship between the two clubs.

As for what sort of facility the WTA is hoping to see delivered, it’s likely too early to talk specifics, Cherniavsky said.

The existing facility has 10 courts, and “I think we feel quite strongly that something that is at least the size of what currently exists is not unreasonable,” he added.

The WTA is also hoping to hear from its members, which is why it has launched two surveys—one for locals and one for visitors—to hear their thoughts (find them at whistlertennisassociation.ca).

“Is it location, is it affordability, is it number of courts, is it programming, is it junior tennis and things like that? Those are the questions we want to get a feel for, that would help us communicate to the municipality and with Beedie what kind of a facility we would build,” Cherniavsky said.

But the WTA’s vision is for an inclusive, weatherproof, world-class facility for all types of racquet sports, one that would act as a social hub for the community while attracting tournaments and visitation to the resort in off-peak periods.

“I think for the whole community it would be a fantastic thing, because right now, Whistler’s population is growing significantly, and our summer visitation is growing exponentially, and our parks, our trails, our recreational facilities are all stressed,” said John Konig, the WTA’s director of advocacy.

“So I think it would be such a phenomenal win for the community.”

From Mayor Jack Crompton’s perspective, it’s still too early in the rezoning process to talk specific outcomes.

“Every individual and community group is critical to us making good decisions on this project. We’ve all been waiting a long time to see the final piece of the village built. Their input will be taken very seriously just like everyone else’s will,” Crompton said.

With the WTA submitting a report to council in 2019 detailing the storied history of the promise to the club, as well as the growth in tennis’ popularity, it’s safe to say council is aware of the club’s concerns.

“But I’d encourage them to continue to participate in this process,” Crompton said. n