Tim Butorac and so many other Rochester tennis enthusiasts long wondered if their wish for a state-of-the art outdoor tennis center would ever be realized in Rochester.

Thursday, they watched their hopes, dreams and efforts be on display.

Breaking in this dream-come-true were the Rochester Lourdes and Lake City girls tennis teams. They were the first to trod on Butorac’s million-dollar vision at the Rochester Outdoor Tennis Center Courts.

It was Lourdes that won the maiden voyage, 5-2. The Eagles were likely even more excited to romp at their new home courts than to come away winners.

“Before, there were cracks and weeds out here,” Lourdes junior doubles player Karin Hayford said. “This is so nice now. And to be able to open it up and be the first ones on it, it’s just a privilege.”

Fans were loving it, too.

“This coming to fruition, with all of the work that Tim Butorac and other tennis people put into it, it’s awesome,” said Susan Palen, mother of Lourdes senior standout player Clare Palen said. “I appreciate so much not having to watch the match through a fence anymore. 

Butorac operates the private indoor Rochester Tennis Connection as well as the city-owned Rochester Outdoor Tennis Center. He’s been working on getting the latter upgraded for the last three years. 

The facility, which includes a clubhouse whose renovation will be part of a second phase of this project to likely be done next summer, is 75 years old. The primary reason for the improvements push was courts that annually developed cracks.

That was the result of the original Rochester Outdoor Tennis Courts being clay. When they were converted to hard courts 50 years ago, they were built directly over the clay and without a correct base being applied. Rain seeped through the courts, pools of water collected under them, then cracks appeared as the water evaporated.

Butorac began a campaign to get those courts properly upgraded, along with a number of other updates at the Kutzky Park tennis site, calling it “Raise the Net for Kutzky Park Tennis.” 

In it, he and others sought public and private donations for the $1 million project, as well as financial help from the city.

The Rochester Park Board voted that if Butorac and his group could privately raise $450,000 for the first phase of the project, that they would then match that amount to get the entire thing done. Their approval was then taken to the Rochester City Council, who signed off on it.

The “Raise the Net for Kutzky Park Tennis” raised that $450,000 over the course of three years, paving the way for what was witnessed Thursday. The Lourdes and Lake City girls tennis teams were playing on some of the 11 glistening courts that have been redone, with three more on the back end of the site to be refinished next year. 

New fencing also adorns the facility, and the courts have been designed to allow for bleachers and chairs at one large open area of the courts, as well as bench seating next to two of the individual courts.

When the $1 million project is done, likely the end of next summer, Butorac’s dream will be completely realized. By then, he believes Rochester will be sitting with possibly the top outdoor tennis center in the state.

Butorac has been thrilled with the support he’s gotten along the way.

“I can’t stress enough how supportive the city has been,” he said. “And the city of Rochester is a great tennis community that came together as a whole to make this happen.”

• Lourdes, ranked No. 3 in Class A, moved to 11-0 with Thursday’s win. Lake City is 9-3.

• The seven-team and high-powered Mayo Invitational will take place at 9 a.m. Saturday at the Rochester Outdoor Tennis Center. Mayo and Lourdes are both entered.

Lourdes 5, Lake City 2

Singles: Clare Palen (L) def. Renae Harvey 6-0, 6-0; Ryann Witter (L) def. Sarah Ziebarth 6-0, 6-0; Caroline Daly (L) def. Madeline Medvec 6-4, 6-0; Hannah Roth (L) def. Olivia Morrisey 6-0, 6-1. Doubles: Ava Wallerich/Emma Brunkow (LC) def. Sydney Elliott/Elyse Palen 7-6 (7-3), 6-2; Karin Hayford/Melissa Stocker (L) def. Elsie Weinrich/Kaylee Muenzhuber 6-1, 6-0; Dorothy Holland/Molly Kennedy (LC) def. Annabel Boughey/Taylor Elliott 6-0, 6-3.

 

 

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Sports Reporter

Pat covers tennis, girls basketball, football, soccer, track and field, and baseball. He also writes about Gophers football and basketball, and the Timberwolves. He’s been reporting for the Post Bulletin since 1994.