Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Vol. CLIV, Issue 3
Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Progress on Outdoor Court Rebuild and Relocation

For the Whitman tennis teams, the changing weather means the approach of the national tournament and the indoor tennis courts becoming more and more obsolete. As days get sunnier, the availability of the outdoor courts becomes much more attractive, but as the NCAA tournament nears, the inability to use the courts to host early rounds remains a problem––although only for a few more months.

Photo by Catie Bergman.
Whitman’s current outdoor courts. Photo by Catie Bergman.

In February, the Whitman Board of Trustees met to discuss the possibility of expanding the outdoor courts. The plans have been approved, the funding is in place and the location has been decided on, so the only thing preventing the addition of two outdoor courts is time. The logistics of undergoing construction during the tennis season and with students at school have the project scheduled for the summer.

As the men’s and women’s teams, ranking 15th and 16th in the nation respectively, prepare for the postseason, a common theme for both head coaches is the difference that two more courts would make.

As it stands, Whitman is unable to host any NCAA tournament play because the NCAA requires at least six courts for such competition. The ability to host postseason play was a large factor in what turned out to be a successful campaign for a remodel of the current courts, as well as the construction of two new courts.

“We’ve traveled to St. Louis and Atlanta in recent years and having the ability to not travel, at least early on, would be big. Home court advantage is great for fans and better for the players. It would be huge to be able to host early rounds,” said Men’s Coach Jeff Northam about NCAA tournament play.

Besides the obvious postseason advantages, this project means great directions for Whitman sports in general. In a school with numerous student athletes, the emphasis is obviously on academics, with athletics as a secondary priority. However, the sports programs have consistently been competitive, or improving to that point throughout the years. “When I was a student here, the Sherwood roof leaked so bad they used indoor gutters to drain the water into the urinals. That caused some big problems. Since then, the remodeling of athletic facilities has really shown throughout the years. The college has been extremely positive in improving the athletic programs here at Whitman and it has definitely made a difference,” said Northam.

John Hein, the coach of the women’s team, was also very positive about the changes.

“I think it shows how the school agrees that academics and athletics can coexist. A lot of people really stepped up to show that,” said Hein.

Originally, there was lingering debate about where the new courts would go. To stay in the current location, some of the land between Lakum Duckum and the current courts would have to be leveled and rebuilt to accommodate two more courts. Though there was some opposition to this, the debates went rather smoothly.

“I didn’t know what to expect going in, but there weren’t any negative comments voiced,” said Northam.

“Everyone involved handled it very smoothly. It seemed to me like it went well because a lot of people worked really hard throughout the entire process,” said Hein.

Even for the non-athletic community, the current location will be best for involving the student body.

“The new configuration will lend itself to more spectators and easier access to games being played, as well as more action at any one time with more courts,” said Hein.

It is clear through this process how much everyone cares about Whitman athletics and is willing to see through big changes to allow them to exist. John Bogley, vice president for development and college relations, is an example of someone who has been with this project from the very start. From the earliest building plan meetings about two years ago through the coordination of every involved party until this point, Bogley has been instrumental.

“As vice president for development and college relations, my work entails raising funds to support institutional priorities and assisting President [George] Bridges as a member of his senior leadership team.  The idea of additional tennis courts came to my attention a number of years ago because it seemed unfortunate and detrimental to our highly accomplished tennis teams that we were unable to host the singles matches of any competition efficiently because we do not have enough courts to have all six singles matches start at once,” noted Bogley.

“More recently, Jeff Northam mentioned to me that Whitman could not host a nationals play-in round due to the number of outdoor courts we have available on campus.  When this was discussed among President Bridges, Provost [Timothy] Kaufman-Osborn, Athletic Director Dean Snider and both Coach Northam and Coach Hein, a decision was reached that if leadership donors stepped forward we would be supportive of adding two more courts.  Last summer, our first leadership donor emerged.  Three weeks ago, another couple stepped forward to offer support,” he added.

“John Bogley has been amazing in this whole process,” said Northam. “He was the visionary of this project from the start and was extremely helpful putting together funding. Without John, this wouldn’t have gone forward.”

“The staff, faculty, administration and student body have been great. I’ve never been involved with something with this much input. Given the central part of campus, we were concerned about doing what was best for everyone on campus, but hearing everyone’s positive input was reassuring and really exciting to see how much everyone is supporting us and this project,” said Hein.

Since the tennis courts see quite a bit of use outside of the varsity teams, this addition and remodel will benefit everyone from the club and intramural level players to the local tennis players using the courts in the summer.  The remodeling of the courts will hopefully even prompt those new to the sport to play more and those who don’t play to come out and support the team every so often.

“The support from the students has been great.  We have the best fans in the nation, and this will only make viewing better,” said Northam.

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