As a premier tennis facility in San Diego, the Barnes Tennis Center is well known for hosting high-profile junior, collegiate, and USTA tournaments. Operated by the nonprofit Youth Tennis San Diego, the center’s work, however, extends far beyond the high-level tennis on display at its Point Loma campus, putting it at the epicenter of tennis development and even simple recreation for kids throughout San Diego.
Barnes’ General Manager and CEO of Youth Tennis San Diego Ryan Redondo has been at the helm for two years, his May 2020 start coinciding inauspiciously with the early days of the pandemic. Undaunted, Redondo, whose résumé boasts a decade of experience leading the tennis program at University of the Pacific (which garnered multiple coaching awards) and collaborative work with the USTA to bring equipment and training to school-age kids as well as professional circuit events to the city of Stockton, was more than up to the challenge.
With the world shut down, Redondo wasn’t even initially able to see Barnes’ programs at work, but as life returned to normal, he and his team wasted no time. During his brief tenure, the center has resumed its after-school operations, returning tennis to roughly 65 sites including San Diego Unified school campuses and San Diego parks and rec centers. Its calendar is stacked with tournaments. On-site, Barnes again offers its numerous programs serving kids from age three to 18 at all skill levels from beginners to advanced and elite players, some on their way to D1 collegiate careers. And a recent grant from the state will enable Redondo to make renovations to the facility including enhanced security and updates to the still-original structure, which was completed in 1997, and even eye possible expansion.
In addition to that, Redondo has introduced a new program that’s a direct reflection of his and the center’s shared goal to make tennis accessible for any child who wants to play. Called JUMP (Junior Tournaments Underwriting Master Plan), the program offers USTA-sanctioned beginner level tournaments hosted at the Barnes Center to kids of all ages at no cost. For players whose families wouldn’t be able to afford the typical $55-$65 entry fee, a barrier is lifted. For those who can afford it, says Redondo, “I tell them, ‘It’s still free, so take another tennis lesson or put [that money] into your local club.’” In that way, he says, he hopes to be growing the game both through inclusion as well as by enabling players to further invest in their sport and themselves.
It was also Redondo who successfully brought professional tennis back to San Diego last year, when Barnes Tennis Center hosted the inaugural ATP San Diego Open, a first for the men’s tour. A resounding success that proved very popular with players and fans alike, the men’s tour will return for a second annual ATP San Diego Open on September 17-25. Additionally, on October 10-16, Barnes will host the women’s tour when it, too, makes a swing through San Diego. Also named the San Diego Open, it ends a seven-year drought since the last women’s pro tournament here. “Bringing the professional tournaments [here] comes back to our mission,” says Redondo. “When you’re a child, when you can see that level of tennis and those kinds of athletes perform, it brings dreams to kids. And ultimately, that’s the exciting part for us — that we can inspire kids to dream.”
Funding to support these dreams — and all of Barnes’ programming — is generated by private donors, sponsors, and fundraising events. On August 13, Barnes will host its “Win the Match for the Kids” 2022 Gala, featuring guest speaker and International Tennis Hall of Fame legend Billie Jean King. The exclusive sponsor-level event will immediately follow the Girls’ 16s finals matches of the Billie Jean King Girls’ National 16s & 18s Championships, and will include a cocktail and dinner reception with live music. An online auction will go live to coincide with the start of the weeklong tournament on August 6. Open to the public, the auction will feature highlights including four premium seating tickets to see Elton John at his San Diego stop on the Farewell Yellow Brick Road tour on November 9 at Petco Park including a one-night stay at Intercontinental San Diego, two tickets to Hamilton at the San Diego Civic Theatre on November 12 which also includes a one-night stay at Intercontinental San Diego, and a three-night stay at the 8,000-square-foot, gated “Happy Days” estate, the former Copley family retreat at La Casa del Zorro Resort in Borrego Springs. Like the auction, the Billie Jean King Girls’ National 16s and 18s Championships are open to the public and free to attend. The Girls’ 18s finals matches take place on August 14. barnestenniscenter.com