When it comes to pomp and circumstance, Pascal Collard spared little expense for the Grand Opening last month of the Sarah Vande Berg (SVB) Tennis & Wellness Center in Zephyrhills.
Collard, a Wesley Chapel resident and the CEO of the facility, danced around excitedly as four skydivers made their landings at SVB, the last skydiver bringing along a large U.S. flag to kick off the national anthem.
Tennis legend Nick Bollettieri gave a short speech, as did a number of other local dignitaries, and Hope Kennedy, the CEO of the North Tampa Bay Chamber, spoke for many in attendance when she declared the SVB event, “the best grand opening ever.”
Collard, an avid skydiver himself who joked that his wife had banned him from jumping out of planes for the past three months because, “I needed to be alive for the Grand Opening,” was overjoyed at the turnout at the event, which hosted well over 100 attendees.
He shared the emotional story about the long battle to get the new facility open, and the many hours of work put in by his team of 42 employees for little to no pay.
He closed his speech by screaming, “We did iiiiiiiiiiiiiiit!”
SVB is located in Zephyrhills, just a 20-minute drive up Morris Bridge Rd. from Cross Creek Blvd.
The facility offers an elegant boutique-style experience, with an exercise room, yoga and fitness classes, massages and salt therapy and cryotherapy rooms.
The menu at the SVB Café is provided by Vesh Catering (which also catered the Grand Opening and is one of the top caterers in our area) and features healthy items like quinoa bowls and many fruit- and vegetable-based dishes.
But, racquet sports are expected to put the facility on the map. Named for Sarah Vande Berg, the former Zephyrhills High tennis player who was killed in a car accident, SVB boasts 9 clay tennis courts, including one that can serve as a center court for special events, with spectator seating.
There also are two hard courts, eight pickleball courts and four padel courts. Pascal is hoping to make the facility the national headquarters for padel, a game that merges tennis and racquetball and is popular in Spain, Portugal and Argentina. Pascal says Padel is the fastest growing sport in the world, and that pickleball is the fastest growing in the U.S.
A New Local Option
In the past, Saddlebrook Resort was the only local facility with enough tennis courts to host pro events, like the Women’s Fed Cup in 2017, and various International Tennis Federation (ITF) tournaments on the USTA Pro Circuit, which features players trying to gain the professional ranking points they need to compete on the major pro tours.
However, SVB is now another option. It has booked its first tournament, the SVB Championships, which will be held January 25-31, 2021. The field for the $25,000 USTA Pro Circuit women’s event will feature 16 doubles teams and 32 singles players.
USTA Pro Circuit events often attract players ranked in the Top 100 in the world, and even some in the top 50. A recent ITF tournament in Tyler, TX, attracted U.S. standout Shelby Rogers (No. 55 in the world), Japan’s Misaki Doi (#81) and up-and-coming U.S. star Caty McNally (#120).
The tournament is one of the first tennis events scheduled in Florida for the new year.
SVB also is home to the United Global Academy, a private school offering athletics and specialized training for student athletes in and around Zephyrhills. The Academy offers an academic environment for those training in various sports like tennis, golf and even boxing.
For more info, or to sign up for a membership, visit SVBTennisCenter.com or see the ad on pg. 5 of our latest issue!