The court restoration is moving along very well at the Racquet Club of Chicago. Under the direction of Bill Bickford with help from John Cashman and Ally Bulley and other RCOC members, work has gone well all spring. Chris Ronaldson, Colin Lumley and Peter Lucke-Hille have been providing expert advice on the proper detailing of such elements as bandeau height, tambour angle and gallery and dedans openings. The Middlesex University court in London has been used as a model.
The RCOC has been following the original 1924 blueprints for the court, which have produced a couple of interesting issues. The original penthouse was made not of wood but of Bickley cement, so it didn’t have a proper bandeau and the original height of the penthouse was not standard to current dimensions. In addition, the original slope of the penthouse was at 19%; the new slope will be a more standard 27%.
The great surprise was the state of the Bickley floor. It has survived the last three quarters of a century almost entirely intact. The chase lines are still there, though faded and the various materials that have been laid on top of it over the years (cork, carpet, Astroturf, rubber) have not damaged it at all. “It will be a fast, smooth floor,” said Cashman. “What was interesting was that we have found lawn tennis lines on the original floor, meaning that when they converted the court in the 1930s they first started by playing lawn tennis right on the court tennis court.” Moreover, the actual floor matched the blueprints and the location of the proposed tambour, for instance, was found to be exactly in the right spot. The new floor measures 95′-7″ x 31′-3″.
Even the original ball trough was found intact, simply filled in with concrete and the basket hole at the end was also still there as well, just filled with loose gravel.
All masonry work is now complete and the penthouse has been framed. Armourcoat will be applied in early June, followed by the installation of the maranti boards to finish the penthouse roof surface. A new royal dedans is taking shape, much larger than the original, which will provide much more viewing space.
Steve Virgona, the new tennis pro at RCOC, arrives at the end of this month from Philadelphia, and the court is scheduled for completion at the end of July. He joins John Cashman, the head pro at RCOC. Cashman himself is very familiar with tennis, having started out his tennis career in 1975 as an apprentice under Jimmy Dunn at the Racquet Club of Philadelphia (he grew up in East Falls across the street from Jimmy Burke). Cashman left RCOP to come to Chicago in 1988.
The grand reopening is set for the weekend of 25-28 October 2012. The celebration will feature an amateur tournament, professional exhibitions and a USCTA board meeting. One unique highlight will be that all the former and current world champions alive today are planning to attend the reopening.
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