Prairie Club, home of South Paddle Tennis club, wins ‘Outstanding Facility’

Sam Casey, Gracie Sands, staff writer

The Illinois Parks and Recreation Association (IPRA) named the Glenview Prairie Club of 2800 W. Lake Ave, a Glenview Park District facility that hosts South’s Paddle Tennis Club, an Outstanding Facility of  the Year on Jan. 24.

The award is given to one facility out of 2,000 in its “specific use” division.  According to Debbie Trueblood, IPRA executive director, two qualities helped Glenview’s facility to stand out: the diversity of the Prairie Club’s offerings of golf and paddle tennis and the way in which the club involved the community in its development.

“We appreciated that [the Prairie Club] had done quite a lot of focus groups and survey[s] and meeting with the community to give the community something they loved,” Trueblood said.

The Glenview Prairie Club is also the home of South’s Paddle Tennis Club, which is led by junior Michael O’Connor and sponsored by math teacher Steve Farber.  According to O’Connor, the public club is comparable to similar area private clubs. Tony Marino, the paddle tennis instructor at the Prairie Club, believes that the Club won the award for its functionality throughout the seasons.

“I think that was a main attraction, being able to be used year-round versus just seasonal,” Marino said.

Blake Manhart, the Prairie Club’s general manager, said that there was a high demand for paddle tennis in Glenview, which led to the creation of the new facility. The Glenview Park District sent out a community-wide survey to assess the interest in paddle tennis.

“There were over 800 respondents and, overwhelmingly, about 89 percent of them were excited about bringing paddle tennis into the community,” Manhart said.

Manhart said it was a “pleasant surprise” to be honored by the IPRA. He credits the Park District marketing department for creating a positive buzz as well as other workers at the Club.

“Some [credit] goes to the interior designer,” Manhart said. “She really gave it that [warm] feel, and I’d say the rest of that credit goes to my staff here. We operate on an idea [where] we want to know everyone on a first name basis.”

Manhart also said a lot of thought went into the “horse-shoe” architectural design of the Prairie Club.  Farber believes the design helps to set the club apart.

“At the Prairie Club they designed it so you have a really nice view of all four courts,” Farber said. “They have a little patio outside and it is beautiful in the spring or when it is nice enough to sit outside.”

Marino used to work at private club Valley Lo but left to help establish the new facility.

“It’s really a wonderful facility, like all the other Park District facilities here in Glenview,” Marino said. “They did a really nice job with it. It obviously looks beautiful; it’s on a wonderful landscape here next to the golf course.”

Farber said that the appeal and experience of the GBS Paddle Club goes beyond simply playing and practicing the sport because there is a large social aspect.

“It’s a very social competition,” Farber said. “It’s not [an] overly aggressive sort of competition, you have fun and you enjoy each other’s company.”

South’s Paddle Tennis Club appreciates the facilities of the Prairie Club, according to Farber. The club began with an overwhelming response in students interested in joining.

“After two weeks [of the club’s existence] I went back [to the SAO] and I said that we have to cap [the number of members] or it will not be able to operate,” Farber said. “Next year we [hope to] have multiple sponsors, and we will either find more facilities or we will just go on more days.”

The students of the Journalistic Writing elective contributed to this story.