Mary Fernal is excited to see an influx of tennis players from across the state hosted in Mission, thanks to the new tennis complex.
On Nov. 26 this week, the city of Mission held a ribbon cutting for the Mission Tennis Center at Birdwell Park, located at 2400 N. Stewart Rd. The facilities, said to improve the quality of life in the city, were approved, funded and completed in three and a half years.
Several city leaders and a state leader were present, along with residents from across Mission, to enjoy and experience the tennis center. The renovation of Birdwell Park includes “the resurfacing and restriping of three existing tennis courts, the construction of 13 new courts, addition of a Musco Lighting System, shaded picnic tables,” a revitalized 8-foot-wide walking trail and additional parking spaces.
“Mission is the place to be,” Mayor Armando O’caña said. “It’s the beginning of a new trend in Mission, and that is to make it a very healthy city.”
The undertaking began when Mission’s Parks and Recreation created a public survey for a ten-year plan for the city, which found that tennis ranked number three in the top ten needs of Mission residents. City Manager Randy Perez, who was present with the city from the start of the project, thanked all the departments for their dedication to making the project a success.
“I’m very humbled to present this beautiful facility not only to our citizens, but to our surrounding area,” Perez said. “The mayor and council have a vision to impact not only our children, but our whole community.”
Perez also thanked former city manager Martin Garza, Jr. for being there at the start of the project. Garza was present at the ribbon cutting, and said the facilities were beautiful.
When Parks and Recreation Director Brad Bentsen took the microphone, he spoke about the fact that tennis is a lifetime sport available to all who are interested.
“It’s a sport that many people can enjoy without any barriers to stand up against,” Bentsen said. “What was once not even considered a possibility has now become a reality.”
Bentsen introduced several speakers who spoke highly of the Mission Tennis Center and what it had to offer, including Susan Sharp from the Texas Parks & Wildlife Dept., Judy Quisenberry from Valley Baptist Legacy Foundation, Xavier Longoria, Diane Birdwell, Angelica Lagrange from the South Texas Community Tennis Association and Senator Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa. Hinojosa noted that the complex would improve the quality of life in Mission, and was made with public health for a vital population in mind.
“Tennis courts now have walking trails and running trails and exercise stations, and they’re so important,” Hinojosa said. “Quite frankly it’s healthy to exercise, we have so much diabetes, infectious diseases and obesity, so this helps – especially when we teach our young people that it’s important to exercise.”
The Mission Tennis Center cost approximately $1.9 million according to City Manager Perez. Bentsen thanked several organizations who contributed to the funding of the state-of-the-art complex, including the Valley Baptist Legacy Foundation and Texas Parks and Wildlife, and the land donated by the Birdwell family.
That evening, the city was able to show off the complex and bird-friendly lighting system as children and adults alike took the lines and prepared to play. Yellow tennis balls littered the courts as volunteers served practice rounds to those donned in athletic gear and wielding rackets of all sizes.
During the event, select courts were set up specifically with Tennis for the Blind and Wheelchair Tennis, highlighting the accessible nature of the game. Fernal watched and smiled, saying the center was going to change lives.
“This is fabulous, this is like an opening,” Fernal said. “This will open the doors for many more people.”
South Texas Community Tennis Association, along with the city, will eventually be offering recreational and competitive tennis, disability tennis, wheelchair tennis, USTA tournaments and blind tennis at the Mission Tennis Center, and they stressed that people of all ages, backgrounds and abilities are capable of joining the game.
This article originally appeared in the Friday Nov. 29, 2019 issue of the Progress Times.