FACILITY SPOTLIGHT: Burbank Tennis Center
For Steve Starleaf and his co-workers at the Burbank Tennis Center, it’s always been about giving back to the community that is most important.
Each June, the annual Jensen-Schmidt Tennis Academy for individuals with Down syndrome takes place and is free at the BTC and attracts between 120 and 140 campers.
Starleaf and the BTC have also hosted many ACEing Autism camps and clinics over the years, as well as events for the Burbank Center for the Retarded “A Place to Grow” center located across the street from the tennis center.
“I could not have envisioned that we would be able to do so much to help this underserved population of players,” Starleaf said in an interview with the L.A. Times. “This is what we wanted the Burbank Tennis Center to be. This is why we work so hard to bring programs like this to the center.
“Serving these special groups is what is really the most important. They are the real champions. The joy they get out of competing and having fun is all worth it.”
A 10-year dream of Starleaf’s became a reality in 1997, the same year Starleaf and the Burbank Tennis Center hosted a $50,000 USTA Pro Circuit event won by none other than Andre Agassi, who was making his way up the rankings during his comeback.
The facility has 10 hard courts and two Har-Tru clay courts. Starleaf grew up locally and played for Burbank High School and then Pierce College before attending what is now Texas A&M and winning Nationals in 1978.
Mike Bennett is the assistant manager at the Burbank Tennis Center. The 37-year-old has been at BTC for the past 10 years, and played on the last Cal-State Northridge men’s teams before the program was dropped.
Bennett said the club’s most popular offering currently is Live Ball play on Tuesday and Friday nights from 7:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. and Saturday’s from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Bennett said an XTREME Live Ball group has been added for 4.0 players on Sunday’s from 10 a.m. to noon.
“We are not unique in any way with what we are doing with Live Ball,” Bennett said. “But it’s a fun way to get people out and the players just love it. XTREME Live Ball is for the 4.0 player who just wants to hit a lot of balls and is actually closer to Cardio Tennis.”
Starleaf is loyal to his workers, and they in turn are loyal to him. One longtime veteran instructor Harout Khachatrian has been teaching at the Burbank Tennis Center for the past 22 years.
The public is invited to play in the Fall Classic Doubles Tennis Tournament on Saturday, Sept. 29 from 3 p.m. to 8 p.m. Divisions will include 3.0, 3.5 and 4.0 and the cost is $35 per team.
Drop-In Tennis takes place each Sunday at 6 p.m. The cost is free for Burbank Tennis Center members and $15 for non-members.
The Burbank Tennis Center offers public tennis lessons each season and the fall session begins Sept. 10. For more information, go to: http://www.burbanktenniscenter.com/public_lesson_info.html
For more information on the Burbank Tennis Center, call 818.843.4105 or visit the website at: www.burbanktenniscenter.com.