Rockland Racket Sports and City partner on major tennis facility

By Joseph Coppolino
Rockland Racket Sports and City partner on major tennis facility
Aaron Merkel of Rockland Racket Sports (left) and Clarence-Rockland Mayor Mario Zanth signed an agreement on Friday, January 26, to official partner on the development of a large tennis and racket sport facility in the Clarence-Rockland industrial park. Set to be built next to the Clarence-Rockland arena, Merkel intends to break ground in the summer. (Photo : Joseph Coppolino)

The City of Clarence-Rockland and Rockland Racket Sports signed a memorandum of understanding on Friday, January 26, to bring a large-scale multi-sport recreational facility to the community.  

“This definitely addresses the communities needs in terms of pickleball and tennis,” said Julian Lenhart, director of community services at the city. “It also positions the city as a touristic, sport and recreational hub, and makes it attractive to international athletes to participate in the tennis academy.” 

As presented to the city in 2023, the facility will be in the Rockland Industrial Park adjacent to the Clarence-Rockland arena and the Canadian International Hockey (CIH) academy along County Road 17.  

Representing a more than $20 million investment in the community, phase one of the public-private partnership will allow the construction of a $2 million facility comprising of 14 pickleball courts including an outdoor pavilion for viewing, and a dome for four indoor tennis courts. The city is transferring approximately three acres of land to Rockland Racket Sports, owned by prominent Clarence-Rockland businessmen Aaron Merkel and Brad Cartier, for the construction of the facility. 

This facility will be built by the community, for the community, said Merkel during Friday’s press conference at the Clarence-Rockland arena. It’s a place for our community’s kids to learn to hit their first service and hit their first forehand.

The construction of phase one is expected to start in the summer 2024, with registration for membership and community access expected in the fall. 

Phase two of the project is the construction of a tennis academy. Like the CIH, the tennis academy will include dormitories, food services, retail and gym space for local and international athletes to train and lodge. The estimated value of the academy is around $18 million. Construction of phase two will begin in 2025. 

“This is one of the biggest public-private partnerships we’ve had in the city,” said Mayor Mario Zanth. “This is another thing that puts Clarence-Rockland on the map just like the CIH did.” 

In agreement with Lenhart on the significance of the facility, Zanth added that he sees the facility as a major economic opportunity for the city. As tournaments and sporting events attract visitors, restaurants and hotels will pop up to service the increased tourism. 

Zanth also quipped that maybe the next Félix Auger Aliassime or Layla Fernandez will come from Clarence-Rockland. 

“I look forward to seeing what kind of partnerships we can have with the schools. with other organizations. I know the pickleball leagues and all the other racket sports will be happy,” said Zanth. 

As part of the agreement with the city, Rockland Racket Sports will offer a 20 per cent discount on the facility’s standard membership fees for residents of Clarence-Rockland, as well as a 25 per cent discount for court rentals during non-peak hours. The courts will be available for public use for at least 70 per cent of the time, according to the memorandum of understanding between the city and Rockland Racket Sports. 

The facility will also benefit from a municipal capital facilities agreement, allowing the construction of the building to be exempt development charges and municipal and school board property taxes. 

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