I recently returned to Massachusetts for my 15-year Amherst College reunion -- stick with me here, please -- which in essence marked a decade and a half since I last played tennis or squash competitively.
Jerome, my old varsity teammate in both sports, introduced me to his latest girlfriend by announcing, "This dude used to be a seriously killer tennis player." (Yes, he still talks like that and, yes, I was at the time playing beer pong, just for old times' sake.)
Puffed up by this description and with Springsteen's "Glory Days" blasting on my inner stereo, we decided to hit the court the next day along with another two-sport racketman, Ted the Butcher.
Long story short: It did not go well. Within the hour, we were all flat on our backs, gassed and peeved, muttering about the endless errors we'd committed and that, no, really, we'd once been good. Needless to say, our significant others were unimpressed by the display on or off the court.
In the years since our departure, Amherst has added spectacular indoor tennis, squash and fitness facilities, fueling my sense that I'd been born too early.
And the pending arrival of the
CityView Racquet Club in Long Island City, N.Y., only underscores my sense that I have impeccably bad timing: I leave New York City for the country only to just miss the opening of a centrally located, luxurious-but-affordable private tennis, squash, fitness and spa facility where I could have recaptured my form. (No, really, I'd once been good.)
It's safe to say most tennis fans were hoping that come U.S. Open time, the incomparable athlete and sportsman Roger Federer would be gunning for a calendar Grand Slam.
After losing a listless French Open final to his arch-nemesis, the brutish, indefatigable Rafael Nadal, now we'll have to content ourselves with CityView's debut, scheduled for just prior to the event. Join up and you'll have a bit less scratch for the $8 hot dogs at the National Tennis Center, but that's not a bad thing.
The $10 million club will take up 80,000 square feet on the rooftop of the old Swingline Stapler building, just over the Manhattan border in Queens, and as such, its lounge and juice bar will no doubt have, as the name suggests, great city views.
Vistas notwithstanding, the main draws -- no, the tennis puns won't stop coming -- are the seven indoor har-tru (green clay) courts; three international singles and one doubles squash courts (if you don't know what an international court is, consider a lesson before trying the game, and wear your safety goggles); a 2,000-square-foot fitness center; and full-service spa with all the requisite steam, sauna and massage pampering.
Facilities should be no more impressive than the staff's credentials, and such is the case here: The directors of tennis, Kirk Moritz and Joe Perez, have been highly regarded East Coach teaching professionals for decades.
Working for them are two pros with serious game: Daniel Montes de Oca played Davis Cup tennis for Uruguay and was once ranked No. 1 in the USTA 35-and-overs, while Juan Carlos Parker, a native of Peru, last year won the USTA National Men's 35-and-over Grass Court Championships.
Even the pro shop will have star power, run in partnership with Roman Prokes, who has strung rackets for the likes of John McEnroe, Andre Agassi and Andy Roddick.
Mike Weston, the director of squash, has taught full time for the past decade and a half and was recently ranked in the U.S. top four for the 35-39 age group. You get the picture: No high-school kid with his shirttail out coaching you.
Both tennis and squash programs will offer lessons, tournaments and help with matching up prospective playing partners.
CityView's arrival truly bucks a trend. Skyrocketing real-estate prices in the metropolitan area have precipitated the closing of umpteen tennis facilities over the past several years in favor of co-ops and condos. (An old favorite, Tennisport in Long Island City, has had its property taken by the city under eminent domain and expects to close soon. Is tennis no longer in the public interest?)
This has led to more players crowding onto already crowded and not always pristine Parks Department courts, paying through the nose to get between the lines at what few private clubs remain, or, like me, turning to golf's greener pastures.
With that in mind, CityView's pricing seems not at all unreasonable. The initiation fee is currently $1,200, with annual dues ranging between $1,600 (including everything but tennis) and $4,000 (full access), and corporate membership information available on request. Those numbers are expected to rise as the membership roll fills out.
Court time will be extra and is as yet undetermined, though according to a spokesperson the rates promise to be "competitive" -- something I'm sure not anymore.
For information, call 718-698-3664 or visit
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Evan Rothman played #1 singles and doubles for Amherst College, is a freelance writer living in Staatsburg, N.Y., and senior writer for
Golfweek. A former executive editor at Golf Magazine, his work has appeared in The New York Times, Sports Illustrated, Esquire, Men's Journal and other leading publications.