Design is a Team Sport: the Union High School Tennis Center

Union Public Schools, a Dewberry client for more than 40 years, will soon open a new high school tennis center with a 5,000-square-foot training and support facility and eight courts. The new complex will support the high school's outstanding tennis program, which has won four Oklahoma state championships in recent years.

The design of the tennis center incorporates the insights and experience of many people, both within the school system and here in Dewberry's Tulsa office. From the site design, including wind control measures around the courts, to the building's architecture, which emphasizes functionality, flexibility, and an optimal spectator experience, the tennis center reflects careful thought and true team collaboration.


Enhancing the Fan Experience

We gave extensive consideration to the experience of spectators, including player families and other fans. Some fans like to sit together, others like to sit alone or apart from others, and some enjoy standing or strolling around. According to our client, some nervous parents like to find a spot where they can pace back and forth, while still keeping an eye on the action. We created an indoor, glass-walled viewing gallery on the upper floor as well as a shaded, outdoor spectator area. In addition, there are a number of other areas, including oversized stair landings and an expanse along the wall behind the outdoor seats, where people can stand and observe on-court play. The observation areas offer a 270-degree viewing angle with panoramic views of all of the courts.

A first-level concessions space is positioned to serve tennis events as well as the adjacent track & field area, with a plaza for hosting cook-outs and other gatherings. The school's signature red color creates visual punch in the signage and along the roofline.


A Graceful Arc

Inside the center, a training room, locker area, and space for equipment and stringing rackets will support the tennis team's off-court activities, while upstairs meeting and viewing space with a catering kitchen will serve the team as well as other school meetings and events. The graceful curve of the building's metal roof echoes the arc of a player's swing, or a tennis ball in motion, with a sweeping gesture that links the smaller footprint of the upper level with the larger first level and reaches out to shade the outdoor spectator seating. The building's design and orientation also reflect the orderly symmetry of the courts to create visual cohesion.


Working as a Team

Our client worked closely with our design team on this project to ensure that, inside and out, this new tennis center would function effectively and reflect the championship caliber of the Union High School tennis team. Our subconsultants also contributed greatly to this detail-oriented process, including Wallace Engineering, Lee & Browne Consulting, and Howell & Vancuren.

The entire Dewberry team worked enthusiastically on this unique project. Dave Huey, our principal-in-charge, takes an active interest in tennis, with two daughters of his own who have played high school and college-level tennis. Eric Vogt worked closely with me on the design and did all of the outstanding graphics. Clint Rodgers, Kelley Head, and Kern Smith have worked on many projects for Union Public Schools over the years, and they, along with Phil Condley, were all instrumental to our team success. Another unexpected person who contributed to our vision was a family member of one of our architecture staff, who is a tennis coach and contributed helpful insights in the planning process.

Tennis is both an individual and team sport. Players on a tennis team can inspire and motivate one another, help each other practice and stay in shape, and in doubles, play on court as a team. The same is true for the profession of architecture, in which we create both individually and as a team. The design of the Union High School Tennis Center is one example that shows just how much design can be a "team sport."