Iowa State tennis expects spike in performance with new $2.5 million facility

Construction should be completed in December

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AMES — The Iowa State tennis team is moving from its current indoor home out of necessity, but expects to get a bump in performance in the process.

Iowa State University has sought approval from the Board of Regents, and has begun construction on, a 16,000 square-foot indoor tennis facility with usage intended solely for the Cyclones tennis program. The total project cost is $2.5 million with a completion date of December 2016.

The program’s current indoor facility at Ames Racquet and Fitness — which holds six courts — has been sold to a local church and will no longer host the team.

A need to find a new home caused university officials to take strong consideration about what the team needs to be successful in the Big 12.

“I think much like we saw with the basketball practice facility and the golf practice facility,” said Iowa State athletics director Jamie Pollard, “the student athletes are provided something that is 1) unique, 2) dedicated solely to them and 3) allows us to have some bells and whistles for recruiting, we’ll see a spike in overall team performance.”

Iowa State received a lead gift of $500,000 with that donor intending to name the facility — the naming rights will be formally announced through the Board of Regents — on a patch of land just south of the Sukup Basketball Complex in west Ames.

Dickson Jensen and Luann Jensen will lease the property to the university for five years at $540,000 per year, with Iowa State holding the option to purchase the land for $1 at the end of the lease.

In addition to sharing a parking lot with the basketball practice facility, the tennis team will enjoy similar amenities that have been installed for the basketball teams.

“We certainly borrow a lot of cues from past projects,” said ISU senior associate AD for operations Chris Jorgensen. “It’ll look, from an aesthetics standpoint, very similar to (the basketball) facility. It’ll provide our tennis athletes with some of the same amenities as our basketball athletes have from a team lounge perspective and access to a training facility 24/7.

“It’s a huge benefit from a scheduling perspective, recruiting perspective and when we compare it to what our peers have it’s going to be very similar, if not a nice upgrade, over what our coaches have to recruit against.”

The facility will feature a team lounge, locker rooms, two courts — it will not host indoor competition — and video-coaching systems and ball machines that will allow individuals to practice returns. With recruiting as the lifeblood of any collegiate program, the upgrade in facility gives ISU coaches more to sell prospects.

“Oklahoma State just opened their facility, it’s an $18 million facility, in the last two years and they’ve made the finals of the national tournament,” said ISU coach Armando Espinosa. “So there is a big correlation when it comes to facilities and attracting better recruits.

“Our pitch is for recruits to come to Iowa State, it’s exactly what we need. You need one court, the technology that comes with it and it helps us out a lot when it comes to a ball machine when you don’t need a coach to be out there.”

The team lounge will also be furnished and have computers on-site, allowing a study space for the players. The facility is located 2.4 miles from central campus, but is situated along a Cy-Ride bus route.

Iowa State was 14-10 last season, its most wins since going 14-16 in 1985-86, and saw freshman Liza Buss make the All-Big 12 Second Team and the league’s all-freshman team.

“With the plan that we have and everything going into it with the facility, training regiment,” Espinosa said, “I think we’re going to be able to attract kids that are trying to pursue a professional career as soon as they finish their degree.”

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