Hardcourts open for play

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— The sun was shining brightly Tuesday morning as four giddy women took to the outdoor courts at the Tennis Center.

It may not have seemed like it to them, but Sue Oakley, Debbie Scott, Jan Riley and JoDee Anderson were making tennis history in Steamboat Springs.

On Tuesday they set a mark that will stand; well, at least until next spring, and it had nothing to do with games, sets or matches. But the fact they were playing games, sets and matches on the Tennis Center's new hardcourts on April 10 was a first.

"This is the earliest we've ever been playing tennis on an outdoor court," said Jim Swiggart, Tennis Center director. "This is a full month and a half ahead of schedule."

Last fall, the Tennis Center completed construction on four new hardcourts, which are alongside the six clay courts the center built more than 10 years ago.

Swiggart said the new courts offer players the option of heading outside during Steamboat's shoulder seasons in the fall and spring when it is still too risky to run water to the outdoor clay court surfaces. Swiggart expects those six courts to open soon but wouldn't speculate on an exact date.

"It will depend entirely on the weather," Swiggart said. "We need warm temperatures so that the water lines don't freeze."

Once the occurrences of freezing temperatures have diminished, Swiggart said the other outdoor courts will open and the center will swing into the summer season.

Swiggart said the demand for the courts isn't overwhelming at this point, but once the news that the courts are open gets out, he expects the request to play outdoors to increase. On Tuesday, two courts were available for play. Workers were still cleaning up and preparing the other two courts for the season.

Before Tuesday, the center was limited to its four indoor clay courts. Now the players will have a choice.

"It's nice to get outside," Oakley said. "It's a beautiful day."

Swiggart said the price for a summer medallion will remain the same, but players who hold the pass can now start playing roughly seven weeks ahead of last year.

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