After the SUNY New Paltz indoor tennis bubble deflated almost a decade ago, tennis enthusiasts in the New Paltz region have to travel far and wide to get their game on — but maybe not for long. Tennis enthusiast and local property-owner Rich Cusanno has teamed up with his childhood friend, Buddy Wortmann of New Jersey — where they both grew up and graduated high school together — to launch a new 14,000-square-foot indoor tennis facility in Tillson. The site is located off Route 32, next to the Pine Crest Storage facility that Wortmann owns, as well as several acres of woods and another industrial building behind the storage facility.
When Cusanno saw that the storage business’s former owner Frank Natoli needed to sell his property (and others) quickly, he called his pal Wortmann, who worked in the storage unit industry in New Jersey. Wortmann purchased the storage units and Cusanno helps to manage them. But there was an extra building, as well as a pine grove and large wooded area behind the units, that they wondered what they could do with.
“Rich was the one that proposed a tennis facility,” said Wortmann. “He’s a big tennis fan, and we did the marketing research and it made a ton of sense. The demographics of the area and the location of our proposed facility allows for four times the amount of potential users than the USTA [US Tennis Association] calls for when considering developing indoor courts.”
There is a large tennis community within a 25-minute radius of the proposed site, and Cusanno is hoping to provide an indoor facility that can allow for an affordable, easy-to-get-to facility for tennis-lovers of all ages to enjoy year-round. He explained that when the SUNY New Paltz bubble was up and running, there was a “New Paltz Tennis Club that had over 300 members. Now they have to go to Saugerties or Wappingers Falls to get court time. That defeats the purpose of many amateur tennis players, or those wanting to learn the game and improve,” he said. “You want to be able to go and get a game in for an hour over lunch break, or take a lesson and get back to your work and life or school. If you’re having to travel 40 minutes either way, that’s like taking several hours out of your day to play a round of golf — which is time most of us don’t have.”
While the plan made sense to Cusanno and Wortmann, they first had to go get a height-variance approval from the Rosendale Zoning Board of Appeals for an extra ten feet, which was approved. They are poised to move forward with their site plan and engineering report to the Rosendale Planning Board, which they’ve said has “been very cooperative and helpful in this process.”
The proposed site plan includes a 14,000-square-foot pre-engineered building that would house two regulation-sized indoor courts. Instead of traditional asphalt, Cusanno wants courts made from Hard-tru, a base that “has much more give, is softer on the knees and joints and slows down the play just enough so that you can have a really good volley and see where the ball is going. It’s a great court base for all ages, because of the way it lets you move and see the ball, and does not take a pounding on the body.”
Beyond the courts, the two plan on having basic locker room facilities, restrooms, a waiting area and a small pro shop, where people could get their racquets strung, pick up a tennis glove, some new balls, shoes, et cetera. “We want it to be comfortable and have all of the basic amenities, without all kinds of unnecessary bells and whistles,” said Wortmann. “We want it turnkey-friendly, easily accessible for all types of users, so that we can keep the costs reasonable and reduce the travel time and costs people are currently forced to do now.”
Cusanno added that they want to invite high school teams to practice, have lessons for those wanting to learn the game or hone their skills and move to the next level, as well as plenty of court time where people can be relatively well-matched and get a good game in. “We’re also thinking of having tennis camps here in the summertime, as well as tournaments and leagues that we could sponsor. There is a huge tennis community that is really struggling to find court time. If we can save people an hour in their day, running their kid to and from a private lesson, or someone who’d like to get a good match in on the way home from work without costing a ridiculous amount of time, then I feel like we’re helping the community stay close, stay active and healthy.”
The two best friends are excited about the venture, have an easygoing nature about them and a salt-of-the-Earth type demeanor. “We just want to use this property for something good,” said Wortmann. “And we think this will be a big boon to the area and its recreational opportunities.”
The two partners of what is now being called “Pine Crest Indoor Tennis” are inviting anyone and everyone who may have an interest in tennis to join them for an informational meeting at the New Paltz Community Center on Wednesday, Jan. 18 at 7 p.m. “We want to hear people’s input into the plans, get a sense of what their needs are,” said Cusanno. “We’re inviting the entire tennis community: people interested in the game, local coaches and athletes, everyone who might utilize this facility and who could provide us with some added information on how the facility could best serve the greatest amount of people.” ++