Design of a new $7 million tennis facility at Rice University will begin this summer. The university has received donations totaling approximately $5 million for this project and will begin construction on the new facility when an additional $2 million is raised. The project is subject to the Rice University Board of Trustees’ approval.
“Rice is committed to giving its students a quality experience, whether that’s in the classroom or on the courts,” said Rice President David Leebron. “We have a wonderful tradition of competitive and recreational tennis that will be well served by these new facilities as Rice enters its second century.”
“The new facility will be a major improvement for Rice and its student-athletes and will improve our competitiveness and ability to attract tournaments,” Athletics Director Rick Greenspan said.
Currently, Rice has tennis courts in two different locations. The new facility will have 14 tennis courts, coaches’ offices, locker rooms, training and equipment rooms and great spectator seating. Competition-quality lights will give Rice the ability to play matches in the evening, and the court configuration will give coaches better visual access to monitor team play. Spectators will benefit from seating that will allow for viewing multiple matches, Greenspan said. The new facility will also include the Rice Tennis Club.
“Rice has an enduring tennis history, and this new facility will become an integral part of the campus and our community, as both a venue to play the game on a recreational level and as a destination of choice for future generations of college tennis players,” Greenspan said. “Our new tennis center will become a popular site for conference and NCAA events and open our campus to a wider audience.”
“A new tennis facility is going to be a great addition to our campus,” said Elizabeth Schmidt, women’s head tennis coach. “Our players are excited about what the future holds for Rice tennis, and we all look forward to seeing the design for our new home.”
“It’s exciting to see this project moving into the design phase, which brings the new tennis center one step closer to becoming a reality,” said Efe Ustundag, incoming men’s head tennis coach. “I know how much our fans care about this program, which you can see by the kind of support that the project has generated. This new facility will be a point of pride for Owls everywhere.”
The location of Rice’s current tennis facility, Jake Hess Tennis Stadium, built in 1970, won’t accommodate the configuration of the new courts; therefore, the new facility will be built in West Lot No. 3, between entrances 17 and 18 off of Rice Boulevard.
A lead gift came from trustee emeritus Ralph O’Connor and his wife, Becky.
“The O’Connors’ generosity over the years has contributed immensely to the student experience in many dimensions,” Leebron said. “This gift will ensure that our stellar tennis athletes have a great venue in which to practice and compete, and all of our students who have a passion for tennis will benefit from these facilities.”
“Becky and I are glad that we could help get this project off the ground and into the design phase,” Ralph O’Connor said. “This is a great project for Rice, its student-athletes and coaches, and we encourage others to come forward and help us reach our funding goal.”
Greenspan said the O’Connors’ “recognition of the values that Rice Athletics brings to the campus and their desire to enhance our traditions of success make Becky and Ralph very special friends of our program. The scholar-athletes and campus population will benefit from their care, concern and generosity for many years.”
The Rice tennis teams have produced 24 All-Americans and have won a combined 14 conference championships. The women’s team recently reached the NCAA Sweet 16 after an unprecedented run for the national championship.