On Friday, Oct. 20, the City of Charleston, along with partners the Charleston Parks Conservancy, descended upon James Island for the official grand opening ceremony for the newly expanded and renovated Maybank Tennis Center, located on James Island’s Houghton Lane.
The ceremony was well attended, with throngs of tennis players, contributors to the project, and staffers from the City joined Mayor Joseph P. Riley Jr. in officially cutting the ribbon on the project to expand and update the facility. And while the facility’s most recent face lift necessitated public and private sector collaborative effort, the origins of the facility trace back to a single individual, former property owner Burnett Maybank who first built the facility then later sold it to the City at below market value back in 2000. Fittingly, the now elderly Maybank was front and center at the recently renovated facility’s unveiling held this past Friday evening at the property.
The renovations themselves are extensive. Beginning on June 4, contracting firm MAR Construction began implementing a design produced by civil engineering firm HLA, Inc. The improvements included raising the elevation of all of the courts, demolishing and rebuilding six of the eight previous hard courts, repairing and resurfacing two others, as well as building two new clay courts. Lighting was installed over all of the facility’s hard courts and infrastructure. Tennis court contractor Howard B. Jones & Son was brought in to build and renovate the actual playing facilities.
The project represents a unique collaboration between public, private, and non-profit entities. Along with Burnett Maybank’s involvement as well as the City’s management of the property, local non-profits the Charleston Parks Conservancy and Friends of the Maybank Tennis Center offered a third area of contribution, helping to drum up more than
$16,000 necessary to compliment the nearly $800,000 GO bond the City utilized in funding the project.
The facility upgrade included supportive infrastructure as well with contractors also installing two new detention ponds onsite in an effort to help alleviate drainage, building a new maintenance access road off of Fleming Drive, and creating a more common-sense parking lot featuring an additional 49 parking spaces. For Mayor Joe Riley, however, the multitudes who’ve contributed to the facility wouldn’t have had that opportunity, save for the efforts of the site’s founder, Maybank.
“Burnett built this, nurtured it, loved it, maintained it and played tennis on it,” said Riley when giving the opening address for the ceremony. “We’re proud now, 12 years later to usher in the new era of the Maybank Tennis Center, which will always be its name.
It was Maybank who transformed the property at 1880 Houghton Lane from a patch of virgin forest, flush with thick undergrowth to the fully functional tennis center he operated until its sale to the City in 2000. In the 40 years have come and gone since he began the project, the facility, like the sport of tennis itself in Charleston, has enjoyed a meteoric rise to prominence.“He’s an incredible man. He carved this place out of the woods and made this beautiful facility we call all now enjoy,” said Riley after his presentation. For Riley, the story of the City of Charleston’s love affair with tennis and subsequent rise to the status of the ‘Best Tennis Town in America,’ is a tale featuring a large cast of contributors, however, from the perspective of the City, few have contributed more to Holy City’s half-century long, exponential rise in the world of tennis than Maybank, a lifelong James Islander.
As for the courts themselves, players on hand at for matches held throughout la st Friday’s evening grand opening held the unanimous opinion that the new facilities at the Maybank Tennis Center match any in the region. “The courts are just great,” commented Charly Rasheed, the Director of Tennis at Wild Dunes and the 2011 U.S. Tennis Association (USTA) South Carolina Player of the Year. “The hard courts are really clean, bouncy, gritty … and you get true bounces out here. “This is as good as a hard court can play.”