ASTORIA — The formerly cracked and worn tennis courts in Astoria Park officially reopened Thursday after an overhaul that included paving them with the same surfacing used on professional sports courts, officials said.
More than 200 kids use the park's 14 courts during the summer for free tennis lessons through the City Parks Foundation, and dozens of young players — as well as tennis great Virginia Wade, a former U.S. Open and Wimbledon winner — attended the ribbon cutting of the renovated space.
"This is one of the most popular parks in the city for tennis," said Heather Lubov, the City Parks Foundation's executive director. "The courts were cracked, there was grass growing up, the nets were shot — this is a 100 percent improvement."
The overhaul began in May and was funded with a $750,000 grant from the Thompson Family Foundation, officials said.
Work included installing new nets, repainting and resurfacing the courts with DecoTurf, the same finish used on professional tennis courts like those at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center.
"It's just as good as the courts in Flushing-Meadow now," Lubov said.
The City Parks Foundation gives free tennis lessons to kids ages six to 16 at Astoria Park twice a week, one of 38 participating parks across the city.
The group has offered the program for more than 25 years, and has had participants go on to win college scholarships and even compete in the U.S. Open, according to Lubov.
"Because we have longevity, we can actually see the impact that our program has had," she said. "But really, the goal is not to send kids to the U.S. Open so much as it is for kids to develop a love of the sport, for life."
Online registration for the program is currently closed for this summer, but kids can register in-person at participating parks. To learn more, visit the City Parks Foundation's website.