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Tariq Simons champions changes to stadium

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Tariq Simons (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

Bermuda’s No 1 tennis player Tariq Simons has given his backing to the renovations at WER Joell Stadium.

Some members of the island’s tennis community have been angered by government plans to remove tennis courts and replace them with pickleball facilities, but with work under way at the stadium, Simons is encouraged by the stadium’s modernisation.

“I think it’s a great incentive for tennis players, top ones especially like myself, to get to train at a facility that encourages us to continue playing,” Simons said in a post on the Bermuda Government’s Instagram page.

“It’s also really good for the juniors to come and see that we are priviliged to play at a top facility in the region. Pickleball is a great addition because it’s binging more people here to make use of the facility and as long as we’re working together to continue the progress of sports on the island I think it’s a fantastic thing.”

Simons believes that the introduction of pickleball could also provide a pathway into tennis and give children the opportunity to improve their skills.

Play is continuing at the WER Joell Stadium during renovation (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

“I think they can help with each other’s fundamental goals of increasing how many people play, how many people use it thrive,” Simons said.

“Stay active instead of doing something like watching television in the house, particularly kids because that’s who I work with the most. As long as our goals are combined and we’re aligned, it can be a good thing for both facilities.”

Simons works with former No 1 Gavin Manders, who is now chairman of the Pickleball Association, at Manders Tennis Management and already incorporates pickleball during his coaching sessions and training camps.

“I host MTM clinics and classes that incorporate both, Simons said.

“We use pickleball and tennis in the classes to make a combination of skill sets so that our kids can thrive and perform well on both courts. It’s really up to the coaches and the people to make this a possibility and I happen to be one of those so I am looking forward to the chance of getting to use the new surface at the stadium and make it happen.

Jekon Edness, Senior Sports Development Officer at the Department of Youth, Sport and Recreation, underlined the importance of closing the stadium and updating the infrastructure.

“The motivation to close the tennis stadium was very simple,” Edness said.

“The courts that we have were outdated and they had exceeded their normal shelf life, so to encourage the safety of the facility and get more patrons, we had to close it down so we can resurface.

“The light project is very important. Prior to us getting additional lights for courts four and five and the wall, it was only tennis on courts one to three. As everyone knows the evenings at the WER Joell facility is very busy, so with the additional courts becoming available due to lighting, it will help us to access more people coming to the facility and play after hours.

“We add an additional tennis court and eight pickleball courts will be able to be used at night now, which is unprecedented for this facility.”

The national sports policy has five main goals, to increase participation, achieve sporting excellence regionally, improve access to sports facilities, increase the value of sport and establish a framework for talent development, with Edness confident the new stadium aligns to the vision laid out by government.

“The pickleball courts are very important as we are constantly looking at different ways to get our people active,” Edness said.

“Goal No 1 within the national sports policy is to increase participation in all sports. That goal is very important with eight pickleball courts being placed at underutilised areas.

“Court 5 was the least-used court at this facility and the wall area was another underutilised area so it was very important that we, as a government, are maximising the infrastructure we have and placing pickleball courts on those underutilised areas has changed the dynamic of that facility. They are probably now the most popular areas.

While changes have been made, not all of them are permanent, with Edness revealing that some of the changes can be reversed if the need arises

“The plans for the upgraded use of the facility is to cater to pickleball and tennis,” Edness said.

“Although Court 5 has been changed to a pickleball court, if there was a situation in which it was needed for an important tennis tournament or international tournament, it can be reverted back to that.

“Also, should someone like to use the wall to practice their serve or to hit up against it for tennis, it can be reverted back. The plan is to cater to both tennis and pickleball moving forward.”

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Published February 17, 2024 at 8:00 am (Updated February 17, 2024 at 10:09 pm)

Tariq Simons champions changes to stadium

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