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Will Hoenike


Fruitland Tennis Unveils New Courts
Published: 4/3/2017 9:42:05 AM

After years of planning and raising funds, the perennial power tennis program has a premier new facility.

When Drew Judson was attending Fruitland High School, it was pretty simple.

“At that time (2000-2003), if you played tennis, you were on the varsity team,” said Judson, the 10th-year tennis coach in Fruitland. “Many times, we would have to forfeit individual matches when we would match up with other teams, as we could not field a full team.”

My, how things have changed along the Idaho/Oregon border.

In 2017, Judson’s program had 44 players at the high school level (for a point of context, Fruitland’s powerhouse football team listed 48 players on its varsity roster this past season) and another 60 playing at Fruitland Middle School.

And, added to that, the Grizzlies program welcomed its newest member this spring – a brand-new, $450,000, six-court tennis facility at the school.

“From the time school started in August, many of our players were asking me, ‘when are the courts going to be done,’ or ‘can we play on the courts yet?’” Judson said. “They were very anxious and excited to use the courts.”

Up until this season, the Grizzlies played at Mesa Park, a lighted, public park in Fruitland a little over a mile away from the school. It made for some long nights, with matches often lasting until 9:30 or 10:00 at night.

“An assistant coach of ours used to coach in Weiser and jokingly said we were called, ‘Forever Fruitland,’” Judson said of the length of matches.

The tennis program in Fruitland began raising money in 2009 but the process really began to build steam in 2013. An official fundraising committee was established in 2014 with the goal of getting on-campus tennis courts for Fruitland High School, not only so the team would have somewhere to practice and play, but also so the public would have more access to the public courts at Mesa Park once again. The original plan called for eight courts but was scaled back to six in order to help save on cost. In the end, the team and the committee raised $233,000 toward the project with the school district covering the remaining costs.

Judson pointed out that the money contributed from the district was already earmarked for facilities and wasn’t taken from any salary or operational budgets.

The project called for a sub-surface material called “post-tensioned concrete,” which will help the courts last longer and be less of a burden on the school or community to maintain. Judson said it is the same sub-surface used by the United States Tennis Association hard-court tennis facilities. He also said the project allowed for vinyl-covered fencing around the courts, which doesn’t make as much noise on windy days or when the ball hits it.

The team officially debuted the new courts in late March, beating Vale (OR) High School, 8-4.

Judson’s program has won four team state championships since 2011. The Grizzly girls won team titles in 2011, 2012 and 2013 with the boys getting their own banner in 2013 as well. Kooper Crow won the 3A state boys singles title last spring and teammate Kaylee Benear finished fourth on the girls side. The team’s boys doubles and mixed doubles teams each finished second.

Fruitland is part of a three-team cycle of dominance in tennis at the 3A level in Idaho. Since officially adding the 3A classification to the state tennis slate in 2001, Fruitland, Parma and Ketchum’s Community School - which is actually a 1A school, but there is no 1A classification for tennis - have won all but one state title (Homedale won the combined team title as a 3A school in 2003). Parma, Fruitland’s Snake River Valley rivals, has swept the team titles each of the past three seasons with the Grizzlies in hot pursuit.

Judson beams about the school’s new facility, saying he believes it is one of the nicest in the area and, equally important, the courts should last for a long time.

“I feel lucky to teach and coach in a community that is so supportive in general and to have so many people in our school district and community put in a lot of time and effort to make this tennis-court facility on our campus a reality.” Judson concluded.

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