Rowayton Platform Tennis Assoc - A Public-Access Story
The Rowayton Platform Tennis Association in Connecticut has been thriving since the first money was raised to build courts in 1966. In 2016, at the club’s 50th anniversary, Dick Packer fondly recalled, “The first court was surfaced with ground-up walnut shells. We melted any ice off with buckets of water, and when lights were installed, we put a quarter in the meter for an hour.” Tucked behind the town library, the club now includes five courts, a modest warming hut, and a large stone patio and fire pit.
Kim Seath, President of the RPTA, said, “People describe it as core to Rowayton. It's such a bonder. Once I joined Rowayton, I knew the whole town. Everybody is there on weeknights, weekends, with their families, in league play, and doing clinics. It's also a great site for fundraisers. It is really central to Rowayton.”
With a membership of more than 300 townspeople, the club plays in the Fairfield County men’s and women’s leagues, holds an in-house league, and offers well-attended junior programs. (Previous members who move away are still welcome.) Brendan O’Brien, a former RPTA President, said, “It’s not unusual to find three generations playing paddle together.”
Seath explained, “Paddle just exploded during Covid. We were running out of space. We needed to expand, and we now have five courts, which is a big deal!” To get approval for a fifth court, the club prepared a presentation that went to a town vote. “There was an amazing turnout and we got it. We're very proud.” In less than five months, Rowayton cruised through permitting to excavation to the installation of the court.
The group in charge of bringing the last court to life thought about loans, fundraising, and changes in the membership dues structure. Seath said, “A lot of analysis occurred to try to figure out how to raise a great amount of money in a very short period. When we went through that process, we also became aware of the APTA’s Grants and Loans program. We were fortunate enough to receive both a grant and a loan. That made a giant difference in our ability to be able to fund court five.”
At the same time, the committee changed the membership dues structure to a two-year commitment, with a cost-saving to members and advanced funding for the club. They were fully funded without asking the town for support.
As part of the Norwalk Sixth Taxing District, Rowayton’s project was a topic on many agendas. “We talked about the impact, change in parking, change in access. Folks are very much concerned about the visual of it. Another large cage—was it going to change the landscape? A lot of time and energy was spent sharing schematics and pictures of what it might look like,” Seath explained. The club went through two iterations, after receiving feedback from town leaders, the planning committee, and the community.
“Of course, there was some opposition. But since we built it, we have heard nothing but compliments. It was done with such care and concern. We've got our fifth court and everybody's getting to play even more paddle,” Seath said.
What can be learned from Rowayton? Plan well, fundraise creatively, and use the APTA resources, listen to your community, make adjustments, and you can expand your facility and enlarge your paddle community.
Rowayton has been home to two Hall of Fame Inductees Bob Callaway and Dick Squires, the prolific Shay Family (Amy, Chris, and Junior title holder Ally), National Champion Jared Palmer, and several Masters Nationals winners, among other notables.
More information on the APTA Grants and Loans program can be found here.