The Wessen Lawn Tennis Club — the nation’s first major lawn tennis club in more than 100 years — has opened in Pontiac at the site of a former waterworks plant.
“I’ve had this idea to create a grass tennis club in Michigan for the last 10 years,” says William Massie, who serves as the architect-in-residence and head of the architecture department at the Cranbrook Academy of Art in Bloomfield Hills.
In 2013, Massie brought that idea to fruition when he purchased the former Pontiac Waterworks building and surrounding eight acres from the city, which had declared bankruptcy in 2009.
Since then, the property has been converted to include 24 grass courts as well as an Olympic-sized swimming pool. The Waterworks facility, also the Hayes Jones Community Center (named for the former Pontiac native and Olympic gold medalist) for more than 40 years, has been restored and updated to serve as the facility’s clubhouse. It now features a wrap around wood-plank deck, open dining area with contemporary lounge seating, and a hand-carved wooden bar featuring a stripped hardwood tree as its centerpiece.
“I love Pontiac. It’s the coolest city in Michigan,” says Massie, who grew up in Grand Rapids. “When you bring something back, it affects the community, not only by increasing property values, but by delivering a kind of higher level of optimism in the neighborhood.”
In the future, Massie plans to add nine hard courts and three clay courts for members’ use. He also plans to offer recreational opportunities for local youth. “I have made a commitment to give kids who are close by in the neighborhood to have access to tennis and learn the game,” says Massie, who hopes to enroll 200 members by the end of the summer.
The Wessen Lawn Tennis Club, at 235 Wessen Street, will be the site of U.S. Tennis Association tournaments in future years. It will be open to members from May through October of each year.
For more information about the club and memberships, visit wessenlawntennis.com.