Founded in 1957, the Burlington Tennis Club is a member owned, non-profit recreational club, featuring eight clay tennis courts, two paddle tennis courts, a hard surfaced tennis practice area with backboard, an eight-lane 25 yard pool, pool house, picnic area, a children’s play area, and a clubhouse with lounge, snack bar, and locker rooms. The tennis courts are open for play from May through October and the pool is open from Memorial Day to mid September. The paddle courts are available year round with an additional fee for winter play.
During the summer, BTC offers a choice of memberships for families, couples, and singles, as well as the very best tennis and swim programs for all ages. In addition, the club hosts many social events that allow members to get better acquainted. During the fall and winter, BTC offers paddle memberships for singles and couples with the option of season long prime-time court reservations.
Tucked off a dead end street in South Burlington, BTC is the best kept secret in Chittenden County.
A historical summary of the Burlington Tennis Club would not be complete without looking back to earlier tennis club activity in the Burlington area prior to World War II and during the dozen or so years following.
State tournaments, inter-city matches, and local resort tourneys were popular in the thirties. Professor Fred Carpenter of UVM helped to organize the first area Burlington Tennis Club to play teams from Montpelier, Barre, St. Albans, Brattleboro, Oakledge, Basin Harbor and Thompson’s Point. In 1946, the University Tennis Club came into being with the rental use of six clay courts at UVM’s Centennial field. The courts were fine, but no facilities were available for changing, showering or shelter. Many of the later founders of our BTC kept the program going for a dozen years. During this period, the Vermont State Open was a popular tournament and regularly attracted a strong field of ranked players, including several Canadian Davis Cup players. A junior development program and a large demand by families ultimately led to exploring the need for new, independent and more complete recreation facilities.
The Burlington Tennis Club, Inc. was formally organized on December 11, 1957 by Robert J. Adsit, Jr., Dana S. Bray, John T. Carpenter, James E. Simpson and M. Coleman Twitchell; subscribers to the original Articles of the Association. These incorporators elected the first Board of Trustees consisting of Adsit, Bray, Carpenter, Simpson, Twitchell, Albert W. Coffrin, Willet Foster, John H. MacDonald and Jere S. Messerole, who formulated and adopted the original BTC by-laws. Prior to formal organization, many months were spent in search for a suitable location. The existing site was settled upon from plans laid out by local architect Ben Stein. Construction of the first six courts began on November 26, 1957 in order to prepare a proper foundation before winter set in. Sufficient advance preparations were achieved to allow spring completion and an opening date of July 1, 1958. Part of the original 5 1/2 acre site upon which the Club’s facilities are now located was generously donated by Dana Bray; the rest of the land was acquired for $5,000. The club later acquired additional strips of land near Williston Road and exercised an option to acquire additional acreage to the South for protection and future growth.
Because of existing residential zoning restrictions, many months were spent gaining the approval of adjoining property owners to permit a tennis and swimming recreational facility. The cost of the first six tennis courts was $16,874.
The original estimate for the pool, clubhouse, parking and landscaping, as well as land and courts, amounted to about $75,000. The sale of $100 debenture bonds in 1958 and 1959, coupled with loans from a bank and a trustee, produced enough money to begin building a pool and a bath house, to erect fencing, and to begin construction on a clubhouse. Some 214 bondholders invested in bonds totaling $48,500 to make possible the facilities we enjoy today.
The Club’s first Tennis Manager was Dana S. Bray, Jr., a former Yale tennis player, working the “Pro Shop” which was a utility shack located near court 6. First year salaries and wages were $1,357. There were 170 members the first year producing $6,200 in dues income, based upon a $100 family, $50 single, and $15 junior membership.
The 1960’s were years of growth at BTC, especially in the junior programs, initiation of doubles, baby-sitting service, swimming instruction and swim team activities, and tennis tournaments. Improvements in the grounds and parking and continuous maintenance of the pool, courts and clubhouse were major concerns of the trustees. Two new all-weather courts were built in 1961 at a cost of $11,000, only to be converted in the late 1970’s to more popular clay counts.
The Club’s junior development program produced many outstanding junior players who carried on the BTC tradition of excellence and sportsmanship not only at the club but on courts throughout the New England Junior circuit. The successes of these boys and girls and the club’s growth during the 60’s and 70’s did not happen without dedicated leadership and direction from a large number of volunteer, officers, committees, trustees, and parents, as well as the young people employed to direct the tennis and swim programs and to maintain the courts, buildings and grounds.
During its first 35 years, BTC highlights have included hundreds of social events, award ceremonies, the Burlington Invitational Games matches, Don Budge and Bobby Riggs Exhibition, New England junior tennis matches, annual local junior tournaments, Club Championships, Ladies’ Days, Junior International Challenge Bowl, Summer camp regionals, international swim meets, parent/child tournaments, “lob and Lager” socials and scrambled doubles.