The U.S. Tennis Association (USTA) National Campus is expected to bring more than 100,000 visitors to Lake Nona during its first year as a sports tourism destination.
Think of it as a theme park for tennis players.
The 64-acre facility will not only attract tennis pros like Serena Williams and John Isner, but also junior champions and recreational players. Once the $70 million campus opens Jan. 2, 2017, it will draw both players and fans to the 80 tournaments and events scheduled for its opening year.
Tim Cass, general manager of the USTA National Campus, hopes the facility will entice tourists just like golf lures visitors to the Sunshine State. He wants conventioneers to take tennis breaks and parents to bring their children for lessons after visiting the theme parks.
“It will be the hub of American tennis,” said Cass, a former tennis player who left his job as deputy athletic director at the University of New Mexico to manage the site. “We are building this for the next generation of champions.”
Florida’s mild climate where tennis is played year-round will be a training advantage. Second-ranked American Jack Sock collapsed in the 93-degree heat at the 2015 U.S. Open in New York City.
“The USTA National Campus will give American players a chance to train in hot and humid conditions, which are often seen at the larger tournaments,” Cass said.
And while Lake Nona’s summers are hot, the tennis courts have been strategically planned around five ponds, watering stations, and shade trees that will provide a respite from the heat. Six indoor courts will offer play in air-conditioned comfort.
Video analysis, misting fans and championship tournaments are just some of the reasons tennis players will plan their vacations at the National Campus. Not to mention, 100 courts — with clay, hard, and acrylic surfaces designed to appeal to players of every age and skill level. Those visitors are expected to fill an estimated 50,000 hotel rooms each year.
The USTA Campus will hold its first tournament Jan. 6, and a grand opening celebration is slated for March 2017.
Construction began on the tennis center in April 2015. The USTA received $1.8 million of incentive money from the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO) to bring jobs and new business to the state. The campus is part of Florida’s growing sports industry, which attracts more than 13 million visitors a year and has a $44 billion economic impact, according to Morgan McCord, press secretary for the DEO.
The USTA National Campus is the anchor of the Lake Nona Sports and Performance District, which includes the future Orlando City Soccer Club’s Training Center and Elite Youth Academy. It will also be home to the University of Central Florida men’s and women’s tennis teams.
Tennis tourists can play on the courts from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday-Saturday and 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday.
For more information, go to usta.com/nationalcampus/.