Conways step into new role as Tennis Center at Steamboat Springs enters new era | SteamboatToday.com

Conways step into new role as Tennis Center at Steamboat Springs enters new era

Bill and Loretta Conway stepped into a new role Saturday when they took over as operators of the Tennis Center at Steamboat Springs. The Conways have been at the Tennis Center for the past four years and assumed leadership from Jim and Stacey Swiggart, who announced earlier this year that they will be leaving.

— The sound of racquets slicing through the air could be heard outside, and the echo of tennis balls bouncing off the hard courts could be heard at the Tennis Center at Steamboat Springs Saturday as people were enjoying the game of tennis.

The sounds were pretty much the same sounds that have always been heard at the tennis facility for the past 25 years, but this day marked the start of a new era as the Tennis Center's new operators Loretta and Bill Conway stepped to the service line.

"We are very excited, and we are looking forward to the future," Loretta said Tuesday morning. "It's not like there is a new identity walking in the doors. We've been here for a while and understand the community, and we understand the business. We've had a chance to see this business in action for the past four years."

The Conways arrived back in 2013 when Bill became the new head pro at the Tennis Center, and Loretta came onboard as director of business development.

The Tennis Center has been run by Jim and Stacy Swiggart since it opened in 1991, but earlier this year, the couple announced that the Conways would be taking over operations.

From the time it opened, the Tennis Center has been the focal point of the sport in Steamboat, and the "tennis bubble" allowed the sport to grow into a year-round pursuit in a location that measures snow in feet.

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When the Swiggarts came to town, the Tennis Center featured four clay courts covered by a giant white bubble. In the summer, the facility more than doubled in size with six additional outdoor clay courts.

During the Swiggarts’ tenure, the Tennis Center added four outdoor hard courts and eventually replaced the bubble with a fabric-stretched-over-a-frame structure. The four clay courts, which were protected by the bubble in the early years, were replaced with six recycled tire cushioned hard courts that provide tennis players with year-round access to their sport.

The Tennis Center saw more changes last summer when it converted two clay tennis courts into eight post-tension concrete pickleball courts and another old clay tennis court into a concrete tennis court.

The facility has seen many changes over the years, and users might notice a few minor changes in the next few months, but Loretta that promoting the sport of tennis and protecting the future of the Tennis Center will remain a top priority.

"We hope to introduce an online booking system, we hope to add a little more product in our pro shop and we will continue to accommodate a growing interest in pickleball," Loretta said. "We also want the public to know that we have a lot of space and are open to hosting a wide variety of actives as long as it doesn't impact tennis programs or damage our walls or courts."

She said the focus will remain on serving the tennis community and growing the number of out-of-town visitors who use the facility.

She said tennis players should expect the Tennis Center to continue to evolve as it pursues programs that will keep the facility relevant. In the last two years, the Tennis Center has attracted more than 2,000 unique visitors, which Loretta said doesn't include the growing number of people who are drawn to pickleball.

The pro shop stocks the latest in tennis equipment as well as pickleball gear and a selection of top-of-the-line tennis shoes. Loretta said quality shoes designed specifically for tennis and pickleball are hard to find in Steamboat especially after one of the town's biggest sports retailers recently close its doors.

Tennis Center users can expect the new online booking system to be operational before the end of the year, or in January at the latest.

'We want people to be able to go online and book a court for today, tomorrow or next week," Loretta said.

While the future of the Tennis Center is still unwritten, the Conways hope their chapter will be as memorable as the last one.

VisitSteamboat 10s.com for more information about the Tennis Center at Steamboat Springs.

To reach John F. Russell, call 970-871-4209, email jrussell@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @Framp1966