Part 1 – Grounds and general exhibits
When I traveled to Newport, Rhode Island, last week I had no idea what to expect. A tennis club with a museum? A bunch of tennis memorabilia and some pictures of past and current tennis celebrities? What about Hall of Famers from Los Angeles and Southern California? Are our most prominent players represented well? To be honest, I was very pleasantly surprised. Been to 49 States in this country, seen the Grand Canyon and Niagara Falls, played tennis on hard court, clay, grass, and carpet, at award winning clubs from Rancho Valencia in San Diego to The Breakers in Palm Beach. But I wasn’t quite ready for the beauty, the history, the hospitality, and the intimacy of an institution that’s called the International Tennis Hall of Fame with its connected tennis club and stadium court, and its warm and friendly staff.
Newport is one of the smaller cities on the East Coast. Rich in history it is the home of beautiful, big mansions, quaint little shops and medium sized shopping malls, a Casino, the breathtaking coastal scenery with hotels, restaurants, parks, and the exclusive New York Yacht Club with its scenic views of the harbor and the Newport Bridge in the background. Right in the middle of town, on 194 Bellevue Ave, is the location of the International Tennis Hall of Fame. The big green awning leads the way into the hallowed halls of the oldest and most historic tennis facility in the country.
Beautifully landscaped and meticulously cared for, the complex holds a number of grass courts including one stadium court for up to 3,500 people, 1 clay court, club house with an indoor “court tennis” court, and – the Hall of Fame. Court Tennis is explained on the Hall of Fame web site as follows: Real Tennis dates back to the Renaissance and is a completely different game compared to today’s lawn tennis. A cavern-like 90 x 40 foot court with red cement floor is overlooked on one side by a towering gray slate wall. A sloping roof and rectangular apertures, called galleries, complete the court giving it a unique physical appearance.
I had 4 reasons to visit Newport in July. First and foremost, the induction of Andre Agassi and Peachy Kellmeyer into the Class of 2011 Hall of Fame was big on my list. Second was the only ATP grass court event in the country, going on at the same time here, the Campbell’s Hall of Fame Championships. Third on my list was a visit to the annual meeting of an organization I joyned recently, the Tennis Collectors of America. This group is comprised of tennis memorabila collectors and historians, and seemed a natural organization for my ever increasing taste for tennis history. And last but not least, I wanted to learn about an organization whose founder I’ve met earlier this year in Indian Wells at the BNP Paribas Open: the BoomerTennis Club. Bob Milligan and his wife Lace were my gracious hosts and I enjoyed every minute I spent with them. BoomerTennis, the “ultimate online tennis club” according to their web site, is funded and supported by a bunch of tennis legends, such as Stan Smith, Charlie Pasarell, Tony Trabert, Butch Buchholz, and Donald Dell and provides an organization with resources and events for senior tennis players.
The Hall of Fame web site states: The International Tennis Hall of Fame & Museum, housed in the historic Newport Casino, is an uncommon example of sporting excellence. The entire history of the sport, dating from the 12th Century through today, is chronicled within its 18 galleries. The Museum encompasses more than 20,000 square feet of interactive exhibits, momentous videos and popular memorabilia of tennis champions past and present. The Museum’s permanent collection alone contains more than 16,000 objects. The Library and Information Research Center has upwards of 5,000 books; in excess of 4,000 tapes and films; more than 300,000 photo images, and an abundant collection of magazines, programs, periodicals, posters, and personal player memorabilia.
The pictures in part one of this 3-part International Hall of Fame article are of the grounds and some of the exhibits. Enjoy!
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