It’s been six years since Ascona Fitness closed and left the greater Augusta area without an indoor tennis facility, but it could return as soon as late fall, according to Dan Bence, president of the Kennebec Valley Tennis Association.

“I think we have a real chance of having indoor tennis back in Augusta,” Bence said. “I really hope we have a fall opening somewhere.”

Thanks to an anonymous seed grant that the KVTA has matched, the organization hired Deidre Hutchins to spearhead the drive. There are a few options available. One is to lease space at the former facility on the south end of the Leighton Road. Hutchins worked there for 15 years and recently talked with owners Ed and Jason Gall. The courts are still in good shape, although they would have to be resurfaced.

“There’s actually no holes or cracks in the floor,” Hutchins said. “It’s not really being used for anything at all.”

Hutchins plans to lease space upstairs for a fitness studio while another part of the building is leased by the state for office space. The natural gas line that’s going through Augusta will seriously reduce heating costs but there are other renovations needed. Locker rooms remain in place but would also have to be renovated.

“We’re getting a list of renovations that need to happen,” Bence said. “There’s a lot of stuff.”

Another option would be to buy the building and still a third would be to build a new facility.

“We’re talking with the city about buying some land,” Bence said. “It doesn’t take too long to put up a building for four tennis courts.”

The building at the south end of the Leighton Road has been there for nearly 50 years and had tennis under several banners, beginning with Capital Tennis, then Pegasus. World Gym and Racquet Club and finally Ascona followed. When it was known as World Gym and Racquet it boasted 1,200 members.

“It’s greatly missed by a lot of people in this area,” said Hutchins, who has already contacted many former area players who travel to Waterville or Brunswick to play during the winter.

The KVTA would also develop partnerships with area high schools, most of which have boys and girls teams.

“We’d love to have that facility for not only adults, but it would be great for kids,” said Cony girls coach Wilbur Shardlow, who is also a USTA certified instructor. “The lack of an indoor facility really hurts our high school players.”

Anyone interested in learning more about the plans should contact Peter Walsh at [email protected] or Hutchins at [email protected]

Gary Hawkins — 621-5638

[email protected]

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