ZEPHYRHILLS, Fla. — After years of planning that included a location change, work is underway on the $4.9 million Sarah Vande Berg Tennis Center on Simons Road.

  • Development director calls tennis center a "game changer"
  • Sarah Vande Berg Tennis Center should be done by spring 2020
  • More Pasco County headlines

“It’s a game-changer, we feel,” said Zephyrhills Development Director Todd Vande Berg. “It’s just another opportunity. We’re already known for water internationally, skydiving internationally, and now, with the operator/manager we’re bringing in, he’s kind of known nationally and internationally. So, we’re going to have national, international tennis players coming here to train.”

The 7,400-square-foot facility is being built on 8.25 acres of land and will include 11 tennis courts, one of which will be an exhibition court, eight pickle ball courts, and four padel courts. It will also feature a restaurant, pro shop, and fitness center. Officials already anticipate it will be a site for U.S. Tennis Association tournaments.

“It’s going to have a huge economic impact. Pasco County at large is looking to become a sports destination with the hockey and the office of tourism, some of the branding that they’re doing. We’re just going to add to that opportunity,” Vande Berg said.

The center is named after Vande Berg’s daughter and local tennis standout, Sarah. After impressing coaches at a free clinic in Zephyr Park as a child, Sarah took lessons and went on to play the sport in high school, compete in USTA tournaments, and play Division I tennis at the University of South Carolina Upstate.

“Well, she was very competitive,” said Vande Berg of his daughter’s love of the game. “She enjoyed sports, enjoyed working out and being in shape and being a part of a team.”

Sarah died in a car crash in South Carolina in 2015 at age 21. The center was inspired by her passion for tennis.

“I’m not sure an opportunity for a facility like this gets built in any larger city, but a small town like this with relationships through a variety of different means, a lot of different people and individuals stepped up to help make this project a reality because of that,” Vande Berg said.

Vande Berg said one of the goals of the Sarah Vande Berg Tennis Foundation established in his daughter’s honor is to ensure through fundraising that every child has the chance to learn how to play, regardless of their family’s financial situation.

“We want the next great tennis player — male and female — to come out of Zephyrhills, so we’re going to try to make that happen,” Vande Berg said.

Funding for the $4.9 million facility is coming in part from a $1 million state appropriation, recreational impact fees, and Penny For Pasco dollars, according to Vande Berg. Construction is expected to wrap in spring 2020.