As one of Big Canoe’s most storied pieces of history, the building that houses the Racquet Club has been the center of community life for more than a century.
Opened in 1916 by Colonel Sam Tate as the Tate Mountain School, the structure has repeatedly been repurposed and renamed – for years it was known as the Wolfscratch School – before it became the Big Canoe’s Racquet Club in the ‘70s.
History repeats itself when the reimagined and repurposed Racquet Club celebrates its grand reopening at noon on Saturday, April 8.
The renovated building will continue serving as the nerve center for pickleball, tennis and bocce. However, the new Racquet Club will better optimize its stunning tree-accented location by offering its patio as a year-round gathering area for residents and visitors. Guests can enjoy a beverage, including coffee drinks, now available for purchase inside. The space will also be utilized for barbecues and events akin to how it was used for last year’s Oktoberfest.
Another key piece of the reimagined Racquet Club is the expansion and fundamental retooling of its retail area, which will continue to sell Big Canoe-branded pickleball and tennis gear – along with apparel by the likes of Lucky in Love and InPhorm. However, the big news is the unveiling of designated sales areas featuring hiking and trails gear, such as Sansolei hats, Camelbak hydration backpacks, and clothing by Columbia; and accessories for pet owners, with such brands as Tall Tails. The various specialized sections, which also will include a range of athleisure wear, will feature Big Canoe-branded items.
Even with its broadened retail offerings, the Racquet Club hasn’t lost sight of continuing to make pickleball the amenity’s primary focus, says Head Racquets Professional Geoff Hedges
One of the fastest-growing sports in the U.S., pickleball participation has grown nationally by an average of 158.6% over the last three years, according to the Sports & Industry Association. That booming popularity is reflected in the expressed interest of Racquet Club newcomers, who almost always want to pick up the sport or transition from tennis to pickleball. Rarely do they request an introduction to tennis, Hedges says.
“Pickleball is something everyone can play,” he says. “Tennis will remain a vital part of the Racquet Club’s offerings, but we are hearing from the membership about their interest in pickleball.” Two of the hard courts for tennis are on track to be converted into six more pickleball courts, Hedges adds.
The Racquet Club still offers all kinds of services geared toward racquet sports, from professional stringing and racquet customization; to private and group lessons taught by USTPA-certified teaching professionals; and weekly pickleball clinics. Bocce courts by the Wildcat Recreation Area will continue to be reserved by contacting the Racquet Club.
Moving forward, the Racquet Club will take on the identity of the perfectly located, multi-faceted center catering to a varied range of interests.
“We are in the absolute center of Big Canoe,” Hedges says, “so the location alone and the size of our building makes it ideal for more than just a Racquet Club pro shop. This beautiful facility and outdoor space need to be shared with the entire community.”