GRAND RAPIDS (WZZM) --Outraged, that's the best word to describe a West Michigan tennis community, which currently has many displaced members because they cannot find any open courts to play.
Mercy Health Saint Mary's announced last July it would cease to operate three area health clubs. Six months later, The MAC, East Hills Athletic Club, and Orchard Hills Swim and Sport Club are all closed, causing an overflow of new members at other facilities.
The scoring term "love" in tennis means zero, and zero is almost how many open courts are available for area tennis enthusiasts right now.
"There's a serious shortage in Grand Rapids," said Sarah Williams, who has been searching for a new tennis home. "It felt like it was the zombie apocalypse of our tennis community."
LikeWilliams, 13-year-old Jacob Wiltjer has had to find a new tennis home too. He's from Cascade, so making the short trip to Orchard Hills was never a problem.
"He spent all summer up here [at Orchard Hills]and played from 10 in the morning to 3 in the afternoon everyday," said David Wiltjer, Jacob's father.
Since Orchard Hills closed earlier this month, the Wiltjers now drive from Cascade to Ramblewood in Wyoming to get an open court.
"Some of the kids that Jacob plays with and his coach went out that way, so we're making the travel over to that side of town," added David Wiltjer.
The closure of longtime athletic clubs, The MAC, East Hills, and Orchard Hills has caused an overflow of new clientele for other facilities. MVP Sports purchased East Hills and Orchard Hills and plans to re-open them under the MVP name later this year. The MAC property was purchased by a real estate company, and it is unknown what plans they have for it.
In a statement, MVP president Karl Droppers told WZZM, "The East Paris courts will be available February-June for court rental opportunities. Online reservations are being accepted atMVPSportsClubs.com now for facility access beginning February 8. In June, MVP Athletic Club on Crahen (former Orchard Hills Facility) will open with indoor and outdoor court options."
Some of the displaced tennis players are finding courts.
"We have some court times still available to rent especially if you're a daytime player," said Lori Jordan, manager at Riverview Athletic Club. "We are staying open an hour later, we're working double-shifts and doing everything we can to get everybody on a court."
According to Jordan, Riverview has added close to 200 new members since the other three facilities closed.
For Sarah Williams, who actively played tennis at The MAC, East Hills and Orchard Hills, she's happy to call Riverview her new tennis home. "We're happy to be here," said Williams. "We're happy to have a place to play."
A spokesperson for MVP Sports says withthe other club closures in the area, there has been a steady increase in new members at their facilities as well.