When you live here, it’s easy to ride by a place day after day and never really notice it. If it’s off the beaten track a bit and there’s no reason to turn in or check it out, the hustle and bustle of life at the beach can make it easy for some places to hide from the masses and exist quietly among their surroundings.
Case in point: Bayside Tennis Club, off of Kent Avenue heading inland, just past the light at Sea Colony and just before the turn at Cat Hill, on the curve. Right smack in front of the water tower, surrounded by woods, there is an opening of sunshine that houses four tennis courts (with space for six). You could blink and miss them, even though they have been there since 1974.
The private, equity-owned club has a grassroots history. According to records, the developer of South Bethany died and his widow, Elizabeth Iggy Hall, sold the land to the club for cheap. Members of the South Bethany Town Council sent out surveys to see if people would be interested in joining and got lots of responses. And the rest, as they say, is history.
Today, the club boasts a family-like atmosphere. Each summer they have three tennis socials — one in June, July and August — and each year they celebrate the end of summer with a Sunday-before-Labor Day full of contests and games, food and fellowship.
Although, in the past, they had a waiting list, they are now actively seeking memberships and there is no wait.
“When I started, I rode by and saw the sign, and I love tennis and had never heard about it,” said board member John Savage. “I sent a post card to the P.O. box and heard back a year or so later, and they said they had room,” he remembered, laughing.
Nancy Gallons, a part-time South Bethany resident and member of the club, remembered how she first found out about it.
“I love to play tennis, too. One day I saw a member riding his bike by my house and he had a tennis bag and racquet — so I chased him! I caught up with him and he said, ‘Sure, I’ll have my wife call you,’ and I played the next day,” she recalled.
Family memberships are available for a one-time fee of $2,400, which can be paid in two or three installments, plus a yearly $150 membership fee. As an equity membership, each family owns 1/85 of the club.
“It’s a great deal,” said past president and board member Dick Fox. “And another great thing is it’s for the whole family, and guests are free.”
The club has many different men and women’s groups, and has a pretty open schedule, with the exception of a weekly Round Robin (mixed doubles) on Tuesday mornings. People simply sign up at the pavilion and, according to Fox, can play as much as they want.
“Conceivably, you could play five days a week,” he said. “Everybody can usually get what they want.”
They have four courts: two with a hard surface and two with a slightly cushioned surface to simulate clay for people who need to keep a careful watch on their knees, ankles and backs. Two of the courts, one each in the front and back, are open year-round. The courts are regularly maintained, and there is a pavilion for social and other club events. The club also supports the Special Olympics by letting them use the courts weekly and supports the Bethany Beach Fourth of July Parade.
“When I joined three or four years ago, I was just struck by how friendly people are,” recalled Savage. “Sometimes I’d get frustrated or didn’t do something right, and would say ‘sorry’ and the people here just said, ‘Forget about it — Sorry is a board game.’”
Members to the “best kept secret in Bethany” can be from anywhere. They have active members from Lewes, Fenwick Island, Bethany, South Bethany and inland, and have “commuting members” from all over, including Pennsylvania, Virginia, Washington, D.C., New Jersey, Wisconsin, and Georgia, to name a few. Kids are welcome and can play “as soon as they can hold a racquet.”
For more information or to join, call (302) 539-2554, write to P.O. Box 323 Bethany Beach, DE 19930, or e-mail email@example.com. And the next time you drive by something for the millionth time, slow down and see what you are missing.