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‘We’re in uncharted territory’: HRM tennis centre to become biggest east of Montreal

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caption Gareth Dowdell instructs a group of junior players at the Atlantic Tennis Centre in Bedford Commons. The centre is set to expand in the spring from the original courts pictured here.

The Atlantic Tennis Centre in Bedford is now in the final months of construction on a new state-of-the-art building that will make the centre one of Canada’s top tennis facilities.

Once completed, the Atlantic Tennis Centre (ATC) will be one of Tennis Canada’s five major training centres. The four others include the national centre in Montreal and regional centres in Toronto, Calgary and Burnaby.

“The Atlantic Tennis Centre is going to be the hub for all tennis development activity in Atlantic Canada,” said Jack Graham, chair of the non-profit board of directors that owns the facility.

The new facility will attach to the centre’s original bubble dome structure, which already has six clay courts. It will meet International Tennis Federation specifications, meaning the ATC will be able to host national and international level tournaments, as well as larger, high-level training programs.

The building is expected to be completed in June and will hold six new courts, as well as a gym, a club lounge and new locker rooms. The centre will also have another six new courts outside for use in the summer. The 12 new courts will be hardcourt surfaces to go along with the original courts, which were upgraded at the end of 2018.

caption Mock up of the finished design for the exterior of the new ATC facility.
Contributed/Atlantic Tennis Centre
caption Mock up of the finished design for the interior of the new ATC facility.
Contributed/Atlantic Tennis Centre

Graham said the new facility meets a demand for tennis that’s exploded in recent years.

“We’re in uncharted territory in Canada with the development of our players where a lot of young people, because of the Canadian stars in tennis, want to try tennis,” he said. “And this facility will really give them an opportunity.”

Those stars include Denis Shapovalov, Milos Raonic and Bianca Andreescu. Andreescu became the first Canadian to win a singles title at a major tournament when she defeated Serena Williams at the US Open last year.


caption The steel framed structure will connect to the original “bubble” dome upon completion in June.

At the moment, the ATC is operating out of its original bubble dome structure. The dome is held aloft by an air pressure system, which Graham says works well, but can be susceptible to weather.

Last month, the dome had to be collapsed due to heavy wind and snow, something that’s happened multiple times during previous winters. The new, fixed structure won’t have that problem.

Having indoor courts under a reliable structure will allow more players to play and train year-round.

Anita Comella, senior director at Tennis Canada, believes this could lead to an increase in nationally competitive players coming out of the Atlantic region.

“Now we’re going to see a lot more growth in tennis, not just in Nova Scotia, but across the Atlantic provinces,” said Comella. “This new centre will allow players out East to stay at home and train at home.”

For the past six months, Tennis Canada has sent a national coach to the ATC once a month to host sessions with a handful of the province’s top junior players from each age group.

Additionally, Jack Graham says the ATC board wants to give up the facility’s operating duties to Tennis Nova Scotia. This would give the provincial organization its own facility in which to grow and develop the sport.

caption The original bubble dome is still in operation. Its six clay courts will be attached to the new structure when construction is complete.


Beyond high-performance tennis, Gareth Dowdell, director of tennis at the ATC, wants to see the centre become an attraction for amateur tennis enthusiasts and new players in the community.

“We want people in Bedford and Sackville and around to come in, pick up a racket and try the sport,” Dowdell said. “We want this to be a place you can also just come hang out with other tennis players to work out or just watch a match with other club members.”

The project is estimated to cost about $10.9 million. This includes purchase of the facility and the completed renovations of the existing courts. Contributions from all three levels of government total more than $8 million, while Tennis Canada has contributed $500,000.

Graham says they’ve already raised more than 90 per cent of the funds needed. The rest will come from corporate sponsors and private donors.

“We have about $800,000 to $1 million left to go, but we’ll find it,” he said. “You need facilities to grow a sport.”

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Ethan Lycan-Lang

Ethan Lang is a student journalist at the University of King’s College. Originally from the Annapolis Valley, he spent a few years on the Rock...

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