Vassar College began building the new Richard L. Cretella Tennis Center on Monday, Jan. 16. The $2.5 million project was made possible by multiple alumni donations, notably from the Richard Cretella Trust and from the family of late Eric Smith ’92, a former tennis player for the College.
The new Tennis Center will be located on what is currently known as Ballantine Field, adjacent to the Walker Field House. In an email correspondence, Dean of Strategic Planning and Academic Resources Marianne Begemann explained that the eight new courts will be much more accommodating for tennis student-athletes, being within proximity to bathroom and shower facilities. Furthermore, the inclusion of a scoreboard and covered seating is meant to encourage spectator participation in matches. The courts will be made of post-tension concrete, a highly durable surface with a lifespan of over 20 years, mitigating future maintenance.
Such improvements are meant to encourage student-athlete recruitment, an important component of Vassar’s physical education program: “The new tennis facilities will be important to attracting student-athletes who are drawn to the excellence of Vassar academics, our campus culture, and want to continue playing competitive tennis at the highest level in Division III,” Begemann wrote. Varsity tennis player Macey Dowd ’25 echoed Begemann’s enthusiasm in a written correspondence: “The whole team is so excited for the new facility!…These new courts will make match days much better and will also improve our program through the draw of this new facility for recruits.” Her teammate, Elyse Duley ’25, agreed: “It is a really big deal for us to be getting a college level facility, and I think it is going to create a more exhilarating atmosphere for competition.” But she added, “As for the old courts, I did not have any real issues with them.”
Promoting athletics at Vassar aligns with the College’s Fearlessly Consequential campaign. As described on the campaign’s website, the “campus community pillar” is dedicated to creating accessible, inclusive wellness spaces: “Health is vital to Vassar’s success.” Begemann emphasized that the new Tennis Center was not prioritized over other Campaign goals like financial aid reform, diversity, faculty support or research, with the campaign having raised $228 million in these areas. “An important note about funding for the [Tennis] Center is that the donors directed their gifts specifically for the tennis courts, nothing was taken away or diverted from other priorities,” she summarized.
The creation of the Tennis Center will have a significant impact on the environment, with the destruction of the Ballantine Field. Additional trees will be chopped down to clear the New Observatory Road; however, Vassar intends to replace these trees across campus elsewhere, Begemann said. As for the current tennis courts behind Josselyn House, nine of the existing 13 will be demolished, making room for the new Admission and Career Education building, the Bartlett Center. “The planned location will transform the north edge of campus by creating a new welcoming primary entrance to the College aligned with Fairmont Avenue and will invigorate our relationship with the neighborhood and the Arlington business district,” Begemann wrote. She added that the nearby North Lot will make the Admission and Career Education Department more accessible and convenient for visitors. Additional green space will be cleared behind Joss for recreational use.
In sum, the new Tennis Center will provide needed updates for the Vassar tennis team. And to a greater extent, the courts are representative of Vassar’s broader commitment to the athletics department.