The Vouté Tennis Courts on Professors Row remain unusable due to the modular housing units installed on top of the courts in 2020. This has caused Tufts’ varsity tennis teams to hold practices and games on the South Courts by Harleston Hall, as they did last year.
For now, two modular units cover half of the Vouté Courts. The other half of the courts remain in poor condition from two units that were removed this past summer. Vice President for Operations Barbara Steinexplained that the university removed these units due to the improving outlook for COVID-19 at the time.
Stein noted that The Mods have been a significant cost to the university.
“Leasing, preparing the site and operating the Mods has cost over $7 million and is part of the university’s ongoing multi-million-dollar response to the pandemic, covering expenses related to testing, PPE, infrastructure, maintenance, cleaning, technology, dining and other needs,” Stein wrote in an email to the Daily.
When removing two of The Mods, the university left in place the anchors securing the units and did not re-install the chain-link barriers that formerly kept balls on the courts. The surface of the tennis courts were also visibly damaged by the presence of The Mods. The university is waiting to refurbish the space in case an uptick in COVID-19 cases on campus requires the university to reinstall The Mods.
“Connections for utilities were maintained on the site to allow the university to set up new modular units if and when health conditions warranted their addition,” Stein wrote. “At the moment, the university is closely watching the number of COVID cases on campus and assessing whether additional units will be added as a precaution. If that step is taken, the university will obtain necessary permissions from the city of Somerville.”
The move from the Vouté Tennis Courts to the South Courts has posed challenges for both varsity tennis teams.
According to Karl Gregor, head coach of the men’s tennis team, the surface of the South Courts was uneven before the 2020–21 school year. The university improved the condition of the courts in the summer of 2020.
"They gave it a facelift,” Gregor said. “They shaved the old court, made it a little even and then they put a nice new paint coat on it.”
However, Gregor said the courts are still not in ideal condition.
“For a limited budget, they did a good job,” Gregor said. “[But] to really get this to the standard we’d want would be a significant project.”
The amount of court space has also posed an issue for both tennis teams. There are eight courts on Professors Row but only four courts by Harleston Hall. So while 16 players can play simultaneously in singles on the Vouté Courts, only eight can do so on the South Courts.
The limited space means that matches will last five to seven hours because the men’s and women’s teams will need to share the courts. The teams have also had to run several smaller practices rather than a single joint one.
Jack Moldenhauer, a senior on the men’s varsity tennis team, believed that players are getting the same amount of practice as in a normal year, just with more planning required on the coaches’ end.
"As long as we have tennis courts, we’re motivated, dedicated enough," Moldenhauer said. "We’re still pursuing our goals as long as we have tennis courts on campus.”
Kristin Shiuey, a sophomore on the women’s varsity tennis team, disagreed with Moldenhauer’s view that practice time has been maintained.
"Sometimes we don’t get to do the things that we want to do during practice, like singles play, and we have to break it up," Shiuey said. "Sometimes you don’t see everyone every single day.”
Despite the limited court space, Shiuey gives credit to Kate Bayard, head coach of the women's varsity tennis team, for leading the team through the situation.
“I think my coach has done a great job maneuvering all of the COVID stuff, but I think overall it has [still made an impact],” Shiuey said.
According to Shiuey, the divided practices have made it harder for members of the men’s and women’s teams to get to know each other, since they are not able to practice at the same time as they normally would. Nevertheless, Shiuey does not think the split practices have hampered her ability to get to know her teammates.
Even as the teams have adjusted to the South Courts, players are eager to return to Vouté.
"[The Vouté Courts are] beautiful courts,” Moldenhauer said. “They’re in the middle of campus, so there’s people always around watching, which is fun. They are our team colors, which is great.”
While the tennis teams expect to return to the Vouté Courts once the pandemic is over, Gregor acknowledged that even this is uncertain.
“There’s a scenario where the school may move the tennis courts down near the other athletic field,” Gregor said. “It’s very much up in the air, and there’s no definitive one way or another.”