Bennington Tennis Center has options for every season and skill level
By Adam Samrov
Freezing rain is falling and it’s 32 degrees outside in the middle of February; not ideal weather for playing tennis in Bennington.
But, Dan Rowe and Barbara Carr are doing just that — inside the temperature-controlled 68 degrees at the Bennington Tennis Center — playing and training in what is colloquially known as “The Bubble.”
The center, opened by primary owner Richard Ader on Lovers Lane in 2010, not only gives tennis enthusiasts a chance to play year-round, but also offers events for anyone age 5 to 85.
“I’ve been here for the past year-and-a-half,” Carr said after her training session with Rowe.
“I spent one winter without it and I had to get back in. I need something to do when it’s cold. It’s so nice to have this here; it’s good for my mental and spiritual health.”
Rowe, along with Seth Gabriel, the center’s teaching professionals, have known each other for more than 20 years. They were doubles partners at Johnson State College, now Northern Vermont University.
“We had a seasonal set of courts at the Equinox Hotel in Manchester,” Gabriel said. “We were both in Bennington and we felt it would be something that Bennington needed, so we started the business here.”
The Bubble also is home to the Bennington ACES (Academic Community Engagement Support), a part of the U.S. Tennis Association Foundation’s National Junior Tennis and Learning network — the only one of its kind in Vermont.
Bennington ACES, founded by Ader in 2016, provides tennis and academic opportunities for Bennington area youths through a partnership with the Bennington school union. After-school programs and a four-week summer tennis camp offer high-quality, age-specific tennis instruction, academic tutoring and in-depth nutrition programming for free to kids in Bennington.
“We want to get the kids away from their screens and get them to do something healthy,” Gabriel said.
Carr, from Williamstown, Mass., said the ACES program has about 25 kids a day, while more than 100 participated in the summer camps.
“They can play tennis, but we also give them academic support and we take them on field trips,” Carr said. “We’ve gone to Mass MoCA, Lake George, Howe Caverns, and it’s free for kids who go to school in Bennington.”
In addition to hosting the Bennington ACES program, private lessons and member events, the center has become a hub for collegiate tennis, with Williams College and the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts using it as their main practice facility.
High schools, including Mount Anthony Union and Hoosac School, also use the center to practice and for matches when the weather is poor. And, some of the Bennington elementary schools send their kids to the center as part of their physical education curriculum.
Also, the center hosts adult and junior programs throughout the year, with beginner, intermediate and advanced options available.
With all the activities going on, there never is a lot of downtime at the center.
“We might have a clinic or two in the morning and then people will come in after work to play or during the day,” Gabriel said. “We have the kids come in after school. We have something for all ages, and we want people to think of us as a destination for tennis.”
IF YOU GO …
Bennington Tennis Center
200 Lovers Lane, Bennington
Indoor courts: Lovers Lane, off Northside Drive, behind Aldi and CVS.
Outdoor courts: Located on the Bennington College campus, 1 College Drive, Bennington
The center offers three types of memberships: a winter membership, running from Oct. 1 to April 30; a summer membership, from May 1 to Sept. 30; and a year-long membership.
Prices range from $150 to $400 per person, depending on the type of membership.
Adam Samrov joined the Bennington Banner in January 2008, and has served as its sports editor since November 2010. His wife, Cassandra, he says, is the real photographer in the family.