Roswell tennis complex planned as international destination

A family foundation plans to build a sprawling multimillion-dollar tennis complex in Roswell, including the largest concentration of clay courts in the nation.

The proposed Angela Krause Tennis, Pickleball and Fitness Center at Roswell’s Big Creek Park will feature more than 135 tennis courts, including 80 clay courts and an indoor facility. The project will cost up to $50 million.

The planned 60-acre complex along Old Alabama Road will be designed for not only local players but as an international destination for tournaments, project supporters say.

The Atlanta area is considered the largest league tennis community in the country, and according to figures from the city of Roswell, some 75,000 active players live in a 10-mile radius of the city. The region is also home to the Atlanta Lawn Tennis Association (ALTA), said to the largest city tennis organization in world.

Roswell City Council will consider a memorandum of understanding to begin formal negotiations at a scheduled meeting Monday night. Under the proposal, Roswell will provide land to the center under a long-term lease, and the complex will be developed, owned and managed by the Krause Family Foundation.

Vernon Krause, the owner of four metro Atlanta automotive dealerships, said he and his wife wanted a way to honor their youngest daughter, Angela, who died of a rare form of cancer in 2015. Angela Krause Varner was an avid player in high school and played on a club team at the University of Georgia, her father said.

“She loved the game,” Vernon Krause said. “She played on her high school team and played ALTA until she was pregnant with her second child and contracted cancer.

“She wasn’t a college star or anything like that. She just loved tennis. She’s the kind of person we want to attract,” her father said.

Vernon Krause connected with Danny Carlson, the CEO of training academy Atlanta Tennis Inc., whose organization had a vision for a tournament and training center that would rival any in the nation.

Serving local tennis

The partners said they plan to break ground on the center early next year and open the first phase in summer or fall of 2019. Development is planned in three phases, and will include two dozen pickleball courts, a pro shop, concessions and fitness center.

Carlson called the center the “premier” tennis and pickleball destination in the country, and said it will vie nationally for league and college tournaments. Daily operations will include tennis and pickleball classes for youth and adults, and Atlanta Tennis plans programs for special needs children and veterans.

The clay courts will be one of the center’s key selling points. Clay courts are in short supply in public facilities, and Carlson said the Roswell facility will have double the clay courts of the next largest rival.

“It’s the preferred surface. If people have the option they’ll play on clay,” he said.

Though the center has national aims, it will cater to the local tennis community. A fact sheet for the development states that Roswell residents will have use of the facility for a special resident fee.

In a news release, Gordon Smith, CEO of the United States Tennis Association, said “Roswell is at the absolute heart of one of the largest concentrations of active tennis players in the entire country, making it the perfect location for this project.”

“This facility will not only serve the local tennis players and community members, but also will quickly become one of the most sought-after clay court venues in the U.S. for both national and international tennis tournaments and events,” he said.

Over the past year, the men have scouted locations for a center that is expected to cost $40 million to $50 million to develop, though they said that investment could grow. Details about financing aren’t final, but construction and operations will be managed by the foundation, with events and programming managed by Atlanta Tennis.

Roswell officials said the complex will be built and operate with no financial burden on the city.

“This will be a world-class facility that brings people from around the world to the city,” said Mayor Lori Henry. “It creates a destination and it will be a huge economic driver.”

Roswell Inc., the city’s nonprofit economic development arm, said a formal economic analysis for the complex has not been crafted. But an analysis for a smaller tournament facility in Rome projected a $30 million to $50 million annual economic boost.

The development team has examined other large-scale tennis academy and tournament facilities in other parts of the country and analyses of those sites have estimated similar economic impacts.

Steve Stroud, executive director of Roswell Inc., said cities are looking at ways of leveraging city property to drive tax revenue, and the project will attract players to stay in area hotels and shop and dine in the city.

The project will could prove to be a catalyst for revitalization of retail centers along the Holcomb Bridge Road and Old Alabama Road corridors,” he said.

“This bring a definite destination to the east side of (Ga.) 400,” he said.

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