96th Street Clay Tennis Courts
In the mid 1980s, the dirt tennis courts at 96th Street were in deplorable condition: sandy, gritty and weed-infested. The City was ready to resurface the courts with asphalt and turn them into hard courts. Upper West Side tennis players strongly objected to these plans. They collected names on petitions, lobbied local politicians and they formed a new organization, the Riverside Clay Tennis Association (RCTA). RCTA raised money through membership fees, donations and by sponsoring tournaments to improve and maintain this unique public amenity. In the early 90s, hundreds of RCTA volunteers spent thousands of hours replacing the old dirt with tons of new, red clay, transforming the courts into the magnificent public, red-clay facility that exists today. RCTA’s groundskeeper keeps the courts in mint condition with an annual program of resurfacing and maintenance, and the irrigation system, installed in the late 90s, waters the courts every night to prevent them from drying out and cracking during the hot summer months.
The lawns, gardens and landscaping in the area surrounding the courts are maintained by RCTA volunteers and staff. RCTA offers a free children’s tennis program and offers low-cost tennis lessons for children of its members as well as adult beginner and intermediate clinics and a host of tournaments throughout the summer. A series of free concerts take place every summer from June – September on the lawn near the 96th Street tennis courts. The featured music varies weekly and ranges from classical and jazz to brazilian and middle eastern.