Nearly ten years ago, Don Flow (MBA ’83) first approached the Athletic Department with a big idea. He envisioned Winston-Salem as an epicenter for world-class tennis at both the collegiate and professional levels. At that point, the tennis teams were competing on campus at the Leighton Tennis Stadium, which only had five courts.
It quickly became clear that if we were going to make this vision a reality, we would need to make a major investment in our men’s and women’s tennis programs and, more specifically, the teams’ facilities. In the months that followed, plans were developed which included building out what we now know as the Wake Forest Tennis Complex near BB&T Field. In addition, there was a goal of securing the rights to an ATP World Tour 250 tournament.
With the completion of the $3 million, 13 court tennis complex and the $1 million initial phase of seating in 2011, Wake Forest established itself as having one of the best facilities in all of college tennis. In addition, the Wake Forest Tennis Complex hosted the inaugural Winston-Salem Open—an ATP 250 event—in August 2011, leading to increased exposure for our programs and facilities.
Since then, several enhancements have boasted the complex’s appeal, including the addition of the $4.5 million Southern Family Seating, renovations to the locker rooms in the Wake Forest Indoor Tennis Center and, even more recently, the installation of a new team scoreboard at the Jim Leighton Courts.
Aside from the Winston-Salem Open being recognized as the 2016 ATP World Tour 250 Tournament of the Year and Wake Forest receiving the opportunity to host the 2018 NCAA Division I Tennis Championships, watching our men’s tennis team capture its first NCAA title in program history on our home courts was the perfect culmination of all that went into the process.
Head coach of the men’s team and 2018 ITA National Coach of the Year, Tony Bresky, and head women’s coach, Jeff Wyshner, have leveraged the facility progress to secure highly-rated recruits. Without these facilities, we would not have hosted the NCAA championships and wouldn’t have had the opportunity to see the Deacs compete for and win two national championships in our own backyard. Ultimately, our facilities enabled Wake Forest fans to rally around our student-athletes and create an unrivaled atmosphere in collegiate tennis.
It isn’t just our tennis programs that have reaped the benefits of facility upgrades, however. Other teams, such as men’s and women’s golf, have also seen the impact of these investments. In the spring of 2010, the 17-acre Arnold Palmer Golf Complex was updated. Highlighting those renovations was the 3,500 square foot Dianne Dailey Golf Learning Center, which is equipped with state-of-the-art technology. While this was already revered as one of the top training facilities in the country, the addition of the $4.5 million Haddock House in the spring of 2016 brought our golf facilities to a whole new level.
Fast forward to today, and now we are celebrating Jennifer Kupcho’s 2018 NCAA Women’s Golf Championship—the first NCAA individual champion for the Wake Forest women’s golf program. Amidst this excitement, I can’t help but think about the importance of our facilities and how they play a role in recruiting and developing student-athletes like Jennifer, leading them to achieve monumental success.
As we move forward and look ahead, the men’s and women’s soccer programs, who experienced massive facility upgrades at Spry Stadium and their practice fields, also have the ability to find themselves among the nation’s best yet again this fall. With that said, however, we are only one phase away from having similar advantages in basketball and football. With the Sutton Sports Performance Center and Shah Basketball Complex scheduled to be completed in January 2019, we will fundamentally change the landscape of those programs. Pending funding, the final phase will also involve renovating the on-campus football locker room and basketball clubhouses for the men’s and women’s teams, which will include locker rooms and players’ lounges.
When I look at where we were ten years ago, it’s hard to believe how far we’ve come. We have proven that the investment in facilities has paid huge dividends across the board for our programs and it’s exciting to see all the success that has taken place. I look forward to continuing to support our student-athletes and helping provide them with the resources they need to succeed, both academically and athletically.
Lastly, I would like to thank all of you who have so generously supported our student-athletes and their efforts. Each of you has played a huge role in helping us get to where we are now, and we are extremely grateful. We are incredibly lucky to have such a special group of people who are so passionate about our programs and dedicated to ensuring our student-athletes succeed.
(Please note: This article was originally published in the June 2018 issue of Gold Rush.)