Bristol Racquet, Fitness Club getting facelift

By Matt Hill

   BRISTOL -- If you like change and you still want change in your pocket, this would be a good time to join the Bristol Racquet and Fitness Club.
   The very reasonably priced tennis center near the Volunteer Parkway has been undergoing a major facelift.
   Construction began this winter on two new hard courts and four new clay courts outside, and things are very close to completion.
   There was a meeting late last summer to decide what the Racquet Club was going to do, and club pro Todd Smith said the members wanted to see some clay courts added.
   "We had a meeting and voted on the amount of courts, how many clay and how many hard," Smith said. "It seemed to lean forward to having more clay courts, so naturally we went with more clay courts. Four clay and two hard, which will give us one more than we have now with the five hard courts. I think we had 52 people come to that dinner meeting, and every vote, we went exactly by that. So their vote is what we did.
   The Racquet Club already hosts two tournaments a year, but Smith thinks even bigger tournaments could come about with the new facilities.
   "We can host bigger tournaments down the road if we want to," Smith said. "We can do all clay. You can run a tournament on four courts, you just have to do the schedule accordingly."
   Smith wants the members to enjoy them first, so it might be a year or two before tournaments on clay occur.
   "I think the first year we're going to let the members enjoy them and use them, and not get into a big bunch of tournaments," Smith said. "Just keep the Arby's, and the tournament we sponsor, the Bristol Open. We'll just see what happens from there."
   According to Smith, not all of his ideas went over well with the members, but it was what the members said that counted.
   "I even brought up a swimming pool, and that got shot down," Smith said. "I don't think anybody wanted that, which was fine with me."
   The decision to go with more clay courts was primarily due to the fact that a lot of the members are older. Clay courts are slower and easier on the body.
   "I worked here back in the early 80's when I was in college," Smith said. "And the majority of the members then are still here. I think the population of the tennis center as a whole has gotten older. They enjoy the clay courts. You can play on them longer. Hard courts will take a toll on you after awhile, so that's the reason we went with more clay than hard."
   The new courts will definitely bring the Bristol Racquet Club up to date with the new century. The old courts are starting to show their age, meaning it was time for the racquet club to do something.
   The new hard courts will look a lot like those you see in some of the Tennis Masters Series Events. Instead of the standard green hard court, the new courts will have a purple twist to them.
   "With the hard courts we've gone with the purple," Smith said. "It's supposed to be real good. I was a little leary at first, but we wanted to be with the new, most modern thing. Now that I've seen them, I think they look good.
   With the new facilities being built, you would probably figure it would be expensive to join the club. But the cost is just $45 a month, which is a whole lot less than the area country clubs.
   "Single membership here is $45 a month," Smith said. "You get the weight room, unlimited racquetball, outdoor courts. There's an indoor court fee, but for the price we're probably going to have one of the best facilities anywhere."
   In a sport that is criticized by people as being "unaffordable," Smith has definitely made an effort to make it affordable for almost anybody.
   "I wanted to make it to where anybody that wanted to play tennis could," Smith said. "And if you wanted to lift weights or play racquetball, it's all here. Any of the tennis members can use anything out here. We went up $10 a month, that was part of our meeting. We went up from $35 to $45, and not one person had a problem with that given the hundreds of thousands of dollars we were sinking back into the facility. I think it will work out good. I think once people play on them or see them and see how nice they're really going to be, hopefully it will increase our membership some.
   Smith says if it's tennis, the Bristol Racquet Club has it.
   "We've got lessons and clinics," Smith said. "Whatever you want tennis wise, we can hook you up."