Tennis Center changeover planned for 2016 | SteamboatToday.com

Tennis Center changeover planned for 2016

Bill Conway and Loretta Conway, left, will take over running the Tennis Center at Steamboat in October, 2016, after Jim Swiggart and Stacy Swiggart, right, have run the facility for 25 years.

— It's just time, said Jim Swiggart, 26 years the director at Tennis Center at Steamboat Springs.

Or, rather, it will be time, in about 14 months.

Jim and Stacy Swiggart have made up the husband-wife team that has served as the facility's concessionaire since 1991, but they're turning over the operation next autumn to Bill and Loretta Conway, another husband-wife team brought in to the center three years ago.

Swiggart said the timing is — or will be — right, and that it's the best way to continue what he said are strong positive trends at the city-owned complex.

"I haven't lost my love for the game or the Tennis Center, and I never will," Swiggart said, "but, in order to go forward with the things Stacy and I have established over 25 years, we need to give it to some new energy and new blood."

Eventually turning the facility over to the Conways wasn't exactly a part of the plan, Jim said, though when he sought them out, the possibility was in his mind. He said when he first met Bill for a job interview, he was looking for someone to revitalize the center's then-flagging juniors program.

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Jim was quickly convinced he had found the answer to one problem, and it didn't take long for him to decide he'd answered another, as well.

After 25 years at the helm, after teaching countless lessons and organizing dozens and dozens of tournaments, after watching both of his children grow up in the sport and play on the high school team, the situation was right.

After three years of working with the Conways, he's even more convinced.

Bill has been the center's head pro since 2012, while Loretta has been the business development director, a position the center hadn't previously had.

"We had a successful tennis facility. It wasn't what it should have been, and one of our programs had been going down hill, the juniors program," Swiggart said. "When I offered Loretta the job, I knew she'd be successful, but I didn't anticipate what she'd really do for us."

He said both Bill and Loretta have helped the facility grow, a 34 percent growth in player days since 2012 and 28 percent increase in gross revenue.

"One of the stresses we've had between the four of us has been how successful she's been," Jim said. "It's difficult trying to manage all the programming Bill and Loretta have brought."

The changeover was rubber-stamped by the Steamboat Springs City Council in the spring when a new three-year contract was approved for Swiggart. Included in those negotiations was the hand off to the Conways, set to take place Oct. 1, 2016.

"I've worked all over this country, from Stanford to Florida, and never had situation where I've had the freedom and support the Swiggarts have given me," Bill said.

He said he and Loretta are eager for the opportunity, but patient enough to wait and learn the business, squeezing in meetings to learn the ropes whenever there's time between lessons.

"Are there changes? Yes," he said, considering what may be different after the takeover. "Still, we're a year out. Will those changes change? Of course. To say, 'Hey, I'm going to do A,' that might turn into Z by the time this all happens."

No worries. Jim and Stacy aren't offended and the idea of some things changing.

"One of the nice things in this, they've had four years to see how the business works," Jim said. "I'd be disappointed if they didn't have a list of things at home.

"My only real concern would be that, in 20 years, this is still a USTA National Tennis Facility of the Year quality place. This is my third child. I don't want it to fail in any way. But I'm not nervous about that. We've got a great couple for the future."

To reach Joel Reichenberger, call 970-871-4253, email jreichenberger@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @JReich9