Serve’s Up at New Denver Tennis Park
Chancellor Rebecca Chopp touts the facility as a champion of public-private partnership
With seven pristine indoor courts and six lighted outdoor courts, the new Denver Tennis Park (DTP) has the capacity to handle two NCAA Division-I tennis teams, a bevy of high school athletes, youth development programs and members of the public.
On a Tuesday evening in June, however, it didn’t feel large enough to contain the excitement surrounding its formal dedication.
University of Denver Chancellor Rebecca Chopp praised the coalition that brought to fruition the region’s only youth-focused indoor-outdoor tennis facility, which is owned and managed by Denver Tennis Park, Inc., a new non-profit dedicated to youth. In addition to a ground lease from Denver Public Schools and grants from local philanthropic foundations and individuals, two DU-related donors financially backed the building that now provides home courts to the university's men’s and women’s tennis teams.
Alumni Catherine “Cappy” Shopneck (BFA ’76, MBA ’80) and her husband Robert (MA ’73, JD ’76) contributed a $1 million gift, as did Jane Hamilton, an Honorary Life Trustee who is a parent and grandparent of DU alumni.
“This is phenomenal,” Chopp said, scanning the packed bleachers in front of her as she delivered her remarks. “It was a win-win-win [building the DTP]. It benefited our students, it benefited DPS, and of course it benefited the community. And that’s, in the future, what we have to do more and more of.”
The DTP opened just six months ago but already has served more than 1,000 kids and 1,200 adults. According to Julie Bock, director and interim executive director of the DTP, the facility has, to date, provided more than 100,000 youth contact hours through its programming.
Twelve high school tennis teams gained valuable access to courts this season, especially in inclement weather. And for programs that are struggling, the DTP has provided instruction and coaching. Meanwhile, other DPS students increased their physical literacy and physical fitness opportunities as part of the DTP’s mission to incorporate sports into young lives. The DTP has helped incorporate tennis into physical education classes and after-school programs. Plus, students who want to learn the game outside of school can do so at little to no cost.
Members of the public can also rent courts. Ten percent of each hourly rate goes toward the DTP’s mission of serving kids of all abilities, both on-site and off-site.
“This was a tremendous, unheard of collaboration,” Bock said. “It’s really important to pause and remember that we all came together for this, and it’s what will take us forward.”
DPS Superintendent Susana Cordova (BA ’88), a DU alumna, also praised the $14 million project.
“In the Denver Public Schools, we are about creating opportunity and access so that all kids can achieve at high levels,” she said. “Access to a facility like this really is an example of what that means. For our students to be able to play in a place like this, to bring tennis to kids who may not have had an opportunity to be exposed to it, we’re so, so looking forward to it.”
For Cappy Shopneck, an avid tennis player and trustee who is part of the DU Tennis Hall of Fame, the project was an opportunity to unite the sport she loves with the school and community she loves. She and her husband were among dozens of people who hit a ceremonial “first serve” to officially dedicate DTP.
“It is the single-nicest indoor facility I’ve ever been in,” she said. “I have always loved and been inspired by the concept of the collaborative nature that made this facility possible. I couldn’t be happier for the students at DU. I couldn’t be happier for this community.”
The DU tennis teams finally have a central location for practice and match play instead of commuting to local clubs in the area. So perhaps it’s no coincidence that both the men’s and women’s teams played nearly flawless tennis in their home matches this season, going a combined 18-2.
Seniors Ignatius Castelino and Bianca Mok say having indoor courts within walking distance makes life more convenient as a student-athlete and has certainly played a role in this season’s success.
“Being closer to campus helps us draw a larger crowd,” Castelino said. “I think that helps, especially with tougher teams. I think we’re always pumped up to play at home.”
And both athletes relish the opportunity to share space with other players from the Denver community.
Said Mok: “Sometimes people will come off the courts just before us and they’ll watch us practice, and when we’re done they’ll tell us how they really enjoy watching us. And it’s nice to be an inspiration to the younger generation and to know that while you’re practicing, people are being inspired by your daily activities.”