The Blackburn Tennis Club 

A Short History & Notable Events 

In 1967 the Blackburn Community Association was formed “to promote social and recreational activities to the residents of Blackburn…”. Thus was presented a phased construction plan for a recreational area, Bearbrook Park, to include tennis courts, lawn bowling, ball diamonds, volleyball, and horseshoes. 

Before the Clubhouse, there was the port-a-potty!

After obtaining approval from the public school board to build on some of its property, construction began on four courts in the summer of 1974, but unfortunately they were not ready for play until 1975. A Tennis Committee was formed to manage the courts. Registration was limited to 600, as it was felt this was all the facility could handle, and there was a waiting list to join. However, the general public was allowed to play from 5 p.m. t0 7 p.m. every day, and any other time there was a free court. Play period was 30 minutes. There was a huge outcry from residents and membership was eventually increased to 682, never again to be restricted. Tennis was one of the first recreation facilities built in Blackburn, several years before Bearbrook Pool.  

 

In 1975 free instruction was offered at all levels in April, May, and June. Early instruction was conducted indoors, in school gymnasiums, and lessons were always full. Ladies Day, ladders, and league tennis took place. The first President was Lawrence Zinman. Barry Nicoll was Vice President, Barry Darlington was in charge of the grounds, and Art Neiro the social affairs. 

In 1976 registration was held in January and $13,989 was taken in. Family membership cost $24, adults $10, and juniors $5. 

In 1977 letters of complaint concerning noise and lights were received from residents. Consequently, the following year the closing time was changed from midnight to 11 p.m. 

In 1978 membership was at 1, 150 people and the Tennis Committee asked for $52 541 to expand the facility. The request was deferred for several years. At this point the Tennis Club had the largest number of active participants in Blackburn, catered to all ages, and always ran a surplus (unlike Bearbrook Pool, which lost money every year).

In 1981 Bob Stephen was the Men’s Singles Champion for the sixth year in a row - no mean feat, considering he had only taken up the game in 1975! Ladies Singles Champion was Sue Martin, Doubles Champions were Scott Hatfield and Don Johnson, plus Becky Searle and Pat Seager. This year there were many complaints regarding the condition of the courts - they were unacceptable for NCTA play. 

In 1986 Courts 5 and 6 were resurfaced at a cost of $2610 per court. A bake sale organized by Arlene Fitzgerald raised $166. 

On October 15th, 1987, thirty-seven members enjoyed a wind-up dinner at the Dragon Restaurant, after which was an award presentation and a General Meeting. Installation of the original "clubhouse," a utility shed donated by Costain.

In 1988, membership was at 900 people. Courts 1 - 4 were resurfaced. An estimate of $22 000 was obtained to renovate the existing “clubhouse”. This building was a utility shack, obtained from Costain for the club by Eldon Kemp. City Inspectors decided a new building could be erected for the same amount of money as renovations on the old one. So, in the summer of 1989, a new clubhouse was built. The club sold Christmas trees on courts 5 and 6 to raise money for these costs. $5000 per year was paid back over 4 years to cover the loan for the project. 

In May 1990 the interior of the new clubhouse was finally finished by volunteers, and the official opening was June 3rd. Fees this year were $90 for families, $65 for couples, and $50 for adults. 

In 1992 the Tennis Club organized the Fun Fair Dance as a fundraiser, which was a great success. Membership at this time was 720, which became a concern as it was lower than previous years. 

In 1994, the club had a full slate of NCTA players (all divisions). The club was paying $850 to play in the league, and many members felt this was too much.

In 1995, it was decided the summer camp started by John and Monique Benfield would be run by the OAC, but this trial lasted only one season.

1997 Davis Cup (British Team)

In the summer of 2000, the clubhouse was burglarized - everything stolen but the kitchen sink. 

In 2001 courts 1 - 4 were rebuilt. Lobbying for this project was started by Michel Haddad in 1996. Later in August courts 5 and 6 were resurfaced.

 

In May 2008 John and Monique Benfield were awarded the City of Ottawa Distinguished Service Award for Recreation and Sports.  This preceded their retirement after more than twenty years of dedicated service to the club, as coaches and volunteers in every imaginable capacity. Most importantly, they inspired our young people with their enthusiasm and love of the game.

History Collected and Written by Barbara Nolen, with thanks to Ray du Plessis

30th Anniversary Celebrations (2004)