by Erik Nelson
In 1992, Elk River High School tennis coach Randy Ronning and Curt Johnson began giving tennis lessons. More than 25 years later, their dream of opening a tennis club for the Elk River and Rogers area is about to be realized.
While most Americans think Minnesota is a hot spot for hockey, Ronning said Minnesota is fourth in the nation in tennis players per capita. He has a copy of a Sports Illustrated article mentioning the popularity of tennis in the state.
“It surprised a lot of people that we’re number four in the nation per capita for tennis players,” Ronning said. “You can go to little towns in Minnesota and they have teams. Some of them have really good teams. The Twin Cities is pretty incredible with all the clubs.”
On Sept. 20, the Rogers Tennis Club will have a grand opening from 1 to 4 p.m. Tennis classes began on Aug. 17.
Businessman Del Bauers said his goal for the Rogers Tennis Club is for it to meet the needs of all tennis players, from children to seniors.
“We’d like to be a place where kids can feel safe and seniors can come and stay active,” Bauers said. “There’s something about the environment [that] we have all talked about where it feels like they’re home when they come here. It’s like their club. They feel welcome and it’s like a big family.”
Rogers Tennis Club offers junior tennis classes, adult tennis classes, and private lessons. The Red Aces class is for children ages 3-5 and runs on Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays this fall through Oct. 10.
Registration costs $136 for club members and $176 for guests. The highest level junior class is the Yellow 2 Teen Intermediate for players aged 13-18. Fall classes began on Aug. 17 and run through Oct. 10. Registration costs $200 for members and $240 for guests. Both classes are seven-week sessions.
Johnson said it’s important to get children to start tennis at an early age, otherwise they will lose interest and not be inclined to play later in life.
“Most people that continue to play tennis start fairly young, so you want get them started when they’re young,” Johnson said, adding that is a sport they can play the rest of their life unlike many others.
“I saw a community ed women’s group one year of beginners. They had never played. Most [of them] probably in their 30s and 40s. I had one gal who couldn’t get the ball to set. I caught her 10 years later and she’s out playing league. She was like, ‘Oh, I love this sport!’ You don’t have to be a superstar to have fun. It’s something you can go out and have fun.
On the other end of the spectrum, Rogers Tennis Club has 10 types of courses for adults, ranging from men’s and women’s open play to adult intermediate tennis to senior drills beginning in October. For example, the Early Riser Drill is a seven-week, 90-minute course that is a morning workout with live ball drills. The Early Riser Drill course costs $25 for members and $30 for guests.
Scott Larsen, the director of tennis at the club, said RTC will be more personable than a LifeTime Fitness location or another health club. He hopes that it will eventually host Minnesota State High School League regional tournaments.
“I worked at the St. Cloud Tennis Center when I was going to college,” Larsen said. “People would walk into that and it wasn’t like walking into a LifeTime club. You’d walk in and they’d know you by name and say, ‘Hi,’ or ‘Hey, Randy! How are you doing? Enjoy your match out there.’ They felt like you belonged to something.
“I think our vision is that we create a space that we’re like the indoor tennis destination for the west metro. We want to run summer programming and have all of the communities that basically surround Rogers using us as their indoor tennis place.”