Tennis courts

Medford’s refurbished tennis courts also make way for pickleball


The courts were all buzzing on Wednesday, when Medford Mayor Breanna Lungo-Koehn, State Representatives Paul Donato and Sean Garballey, and other local bigwigs cut the ribbon to open Clarence A tennis courts Recently renovated Rhone.

A day later, the blue ribbon and giant scissors were gone, the crowds of Medford officials were also gone. Left in their wake, five freshly paved tennis courts, newly painted crisp lines for tennis and pickleball, tight black netting, and a high fence surrounding the entire playing area.

Medford fulfilled the legacy of Clarence A. Rhone and his first clay tennis court, hand-built in the 1950s at Dugger Park, near his home in West Medford. In all the stories of his life, Rhône loved to play tennis and wanted to make it a sport in his neighborhood.

Now, when her daughter Joan Lovett looks out the window, she will see the courts as her father wanted, used and loved by all.

“It’s so beautiful now,” said Joan Lovett, 87. She still lives in her family home in West Medford and was the guest of honor at the grand reopening of the courts after a summer of construction. “Before, he was in such bad shape.

Following:Tennis has deep roots in West Medford, residents aim to revive Labor Day tournament

A contingent of West Medford residents had hoped the courts would be renovated in time to restore a bygone neighborhood tradition, the Labor Day tennis tournament. Weather conditions and other issues delayed the completion of the $ 267,900 project.

Neighbors remember playing tennis on the courts, playing basketball and riding horses nearby.

Medford Mayor Breanna Lungo-Koehn helps cut the ribbon at the opening of the refurbished Clarence A. Rhône tennis courts, and now with pickleball at Dugger Park on Tuesday, October 19, 2021.

“I remember Joan’s father,” said Ruth Youngblood. “I played a bit of tennis, but I used the playground all the time, this and the community center. It’s a great neighborhood. It makes me happy to see that.”

The funds were allocated to the project through the Community Preservation Act, a tax approved by voters in 2015 that is specifically intended for projects such as the renovation of the Rhone courts, said Roberta Cameron. She listed other types of projects that can leverage Community Preservation Act funds, from renovating parks and planting trees around town to creating affordable housing and preserving historic structures.

“We want Medford to know what this money is for,” Cameron said.

State Representative Garballey said the city must preserve its history.

Sue Fowler-Finn manages to make contact with the ball during a game of pickleball during the opening of the pickleball courts at the newly renovated Clarence A. Rhône Tennis Courts at Dugger Park on Tuesday, October 19, 2021.

“This tennis court has a great history; Medford has a great history. We have to embrace it, teach it to our children, make sure it never fades from the public’s mind, ”Garballey said.

Rhône, born in 1893, was an amateur player who established the tennis courts in his neighborhood just as African-American tennis players and other athletes began to break the color barrier in the 1950s.

Professional tennis player and golfer Althea Gibson broke the color barrier, being the first black woman to play at Wimbledon and win a Grand Slam title. She won her Grand Slam title in 1956 and was among the first black athletes to cross the color line in international sports.

Contemporary Arthur Ashe was the first black man selected for the U.S. Davis Cup team and the only black man to win singles titles at Wimbledon and the US and Australian Open.

Jarrett Lovett and his grandmother, Joan Lovett, attend pickleball matches at the opening of the refurbished Clarence A. Rhône tennis courts, named after his father, at Dugger Park on Tuesday, October 19, 2021.

The tennis courts were dedicated to Rhône, who died in a car accident in 1970, “The father of Medford tennis”, by former mayor Angelo Marotta in 1972.

The courts serve a dual function with pickleball

Since its renovation, three of Dugger Park’s five courts will double as pickleball courts. A tennis court can accommodate two smaller pickleball courts and the lines have been painted. Fans will no longer have to draw the lines, but will still have to unroll and erect the nets before games and put them away once they have finished playing.

The previous image: Shallow cracks and hollows in the playing surface of the Rhône tennis courts at Dugger Park have been fixed;  the new fields will also serve Medford pickleball players with portable nets.

The city’s pickleball contingent hopes Medford will include four permanent pickleball courts in the Carr Park reconstruction, which is currently in the design phase. Enthusiasts attended numerous community meetings dedicated to the project to emphasize their message: Get us permanent pickleball courts!

Peter Sullivan, who started playing over a decade ago, has scoured the greater Boston area in search of pickleball courts and is happy to finally be able to play in his hometown.

“I played in Belmont, Billerica, Bedford, Arlington, Lexington, Malden,” says Sullivan, citing the names of neighboring communities. “I even drove to New Hampshire to play.

“I have installed thousands of nets. All I can say about getting permanent courts is, “My back! My back! ‘”Sullivan said, half-kidding.

Camille Power, Medford Pickleball Ambassador, attended the inauguration of the refurbished courts. She is passionate about the sport, teaches it locally and urges everyone within earshot to grab a racket and start playing.

Peter Sullivan returns the ball in a pickleball game at the opening of the newly renovated Clarence A. Rhone tennis courts at Medford's Dugger Park;  three of the five courts will be used as pickleball courts.

“I was born to teach pickleball,” said Power, as she demonstrated her racket skills to young people learning the game.

As players have called on the city to include pickleball in all of its park reconstructions, Kevin Bailey, the city’s recreation department director, is the one who ultimately got the ball rolling. But it was really her mother, Janice Bailey, who planted the idea in her head.

“He asked me what he could do for the seniors in the area,” Janice Bailey said. “I mentioned the pickleball.”

Ranu Boppana and Michael Paine prepare to play a match of pickleball at the opening of the newly renovated Clarence A. Rhone tennis courts at Medford's Dugger Park;  both racquet sports can be played on the courts.

And the rest will add to Medford’s rich history. All that remains is to put the Rhône nameplates in plain view on the fences surrounding the courts.

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