By GARY HAWKINS

Staff Writer

The Kennebec Valley Tennis Association is a lob shot away from realizing its dream of bringing indoor tennis back to Augusta.

The four courts at the former tennis center on the Leighton Road have been cleaned and “look pretty darned good,” according to KVTA president Dan Bence. The association hopes to sign a lease by Dec. 1 with an option to buy the building, but first will need to raise a few more thousand dollars. The KVTA has raised $201,000 in just six weeks, but needs another $30,000 according to Bence.

“That gives us the minimum amount we need for renovations,” he said.

Bence said nearly all the money raised so far has come from players ranging from Jefferson to Sidney, Dresden and Wayne among other central Maine towns. The association also received an anonymous matching grant of $50,000 which has gone into effect. Bence believes the KVTA will also be in line for a $50,000 matching grant from the United States Tennis Association but isn’t counting that into the total since it has yet to be issued.

“It’s more like a rebate,” he said. “It comes at the end of the renovations.”

The building at 23 Leighton Road housed tennis for several years beginning with Capital Tennis and continued to host the sport under the banner of several health clubs, including World Gym and Racquet, Pegasus, and Ascona Fitness, which closed six years ago. Area players have since given up the sport in the winter or traveled to Waterville or Brunswick.

“I think it would be a great opportunity for the community and also to the high schools in the area,” Hall-Dale junior Clio Barr said of a facility in Augusta.

Barr said she played a little in Waterville last winter but that having courts in Augusta would make it so much easier.

“I think it would give a huge advantage (to high school players) because schools in southern Maine and other areas have indoor facilities,” she said.

Bence said the KVTA has yet to receive any corporate donations, a situation he attributes in part to the fact that the not-for-profit association has yet to receive 501c3 which would make any donations tax deductible.

“If we get approved it’s retroactive (to September),” he said. “As far as I can tell there’s really no reason why we wouldn’t.”

Renovations include refurbishing the locker rooms and lobby, installing an energy efficient ceiling, lighting and court resurfacing. A new heating system would be connected to the natural gas line running along Leighton Road.

The new facility plans to offer adult leagues, scrambles and USTA events. It will hire a part-time manager and a pro and place special emphasis on instruction.

Anyone wishing to make a donation or a pledge can do so by contacting Bence at 588-0402 or sending an e-mail to [email protected]

Gary Hawkins — 621-5638[email protected]Twitter: @GaryHawkinsKJ

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