March 6, 2006
For 25 years, Head Coach Steve Houghton and the rest of the men’s tennis team has been patient. They have played on cracked and irregular surfaces. Last year, they practiced and played at Iowa City’s City Park.
Now that patience is paying off. With the new outdoor courts completed and indoor courts making progress, Houghton feels like he is living a dream when he thinks about that first moment on the finished courts.
“From a personal standpoint, it was great. I felt like they were not really our courts. I was excited just to have nice courts, not ones that are cracked. They look nice aesthetically,” said Houghton.
“It’s going to be such a contrast to where we’ve played in the past.”
The new courts and recreation building are a part of the West Campus Project, a $12 million sports and activities project which began construction last April. The first phase of construction involved the Roy G. Karro Athletics Hall of Face, plus a new soccer field. The fall of 2005 saw the completion of the outdoor tennis courts, a new field hockey stadium and practice soccer field. With all focus on the tennis and recreation building, Houghton can’t help looking to the future.
“As far as indoor, we haven’t experienced it yet,” said Houghton. “I’ve been out there and walked through it. It’s going to be a very nice tennis court situation. And, it’ll be just as nice in locker room, team room and fitness center areas. The whole package will be outstanding.”
For the majority of Houghton’s coaching days at Iowa, his team has played their outdoor games at Klotz Tennis Courts, located just south of Kinnick Stadium. While it was nice to be located close to campus, the courts were less than ideal.
“What really hurt us were the badly cracked courts next to the stadium,” said Houghton. “They [the University] didn’t fix them because they were confident our new facility was on the horizon,” he said.
While the new outdoor courts offer a better surface, they also help Houghton in coaching his athletes.
“It’s a little distance from campus, but the good thing, from a tennis standpoint, is the quiet atmosphere we’ll have. It’s easier from a coach’s standpoint. At Kinnick, I was always talking over the traffic,” he said.
The Recreational Building has been the indoor home for Iowa tennis, however those courts have their disadvantages.
“The Recreational Building has a surface which isn’t really a tennis surface. It is an abnormally fast surface that is not good for training. So when we would practice in the Rec Building and then play matches at regular surfaces, it’s a real disadvantage,” he said.
With the completion of the project within sight, Houghton is excited as to how the new facilities will benefit recruiting. In the past Iowa’s recruiting has taken a hit.
“When kids come in to visit we’re at a disadvantage. Most of the other facilities in the Big Ten are strictly tennis. Recruits see that and notice our surface isn’t normal and it’s not what they’re used to playing on,” he said.
“Usually, 18-year old kids make their decision based on what they see. Many times they leave here with a negative feeling about our facility. It’s sad because we’re the same as most schools in other ways, but not the f acility.”
While new courts discussed for years, Houghton understands the delay and is thrilled his athletes finally get the chance to enjoy the new facilities.
“For the seniors, it’s almost bittersweet because they can play on the new outdoor facilities. But, we’ve been talking about a new indoor facility for a long time, and they won’t get to play on it. The guys we’ve been recruiting for next year, we can tell them they’ll play their entire Hawkeye career in a new facility,” he said.
The Hawkeyes next home match is Friday, March 24, against Ohio State.