Winning Serve

Punahou Tennis Facilities Enjoy a Long-Overdue Renovation

Department: Athletics

By B.J. Reyes

One of the first things spectators at the newly renovated H. Gaylord Dillingham Tennis Complex will notice is the view. Not just the unobstructed perspective of all six courts, but of the structure itself.

A breezy new second-story lanai offers a pristine vantage over games. But the pavilion also offers the more than 2,500 K – 12 students who participate in the tennis program access to a new classroom, conference area and video facilities, making game, set and match analysis instantaneous. New lights and resurfaced courts complete the renovation.

Trustee Kitty Sullivan ’75 Wo hailed the opening ceremony on May 10 as “a new beginning” for an already-storied program. “This is a day that will bring new energy and enthusiasm for the sport that we love, new directions for the education and development of our young student athletes, and renewed pride in the legacy that we will build on,” she said.

For Punahou Tennis School Director Bernard Gusman, it also means no more tripping over a clutter of backpacks and bodies to get to his office. The previous lack of space meant cramped quarters for players and coaches. Classroom tennis lessons, match planning, private meetings, even storage for the team’s potlucks, all took place in the same claustrophobic space. “We were literally bursting out of our seams because we didn’t have enough infrastructure,” Gusman says.

The complex now is a space worthy of housing a program that has captured 45 boys and 39 girls varsity state championships, produced a slew of college stars and professionals and been recognized nationally, by Sports Illustrated for one, as one of the top school tennis programs in the country.

The renovation campaign began in 2008, when construction of the Omidyar K – 1 Neighborhood meant the program would lose its three upper courts. These were replaced by the new Wo Family Courts above Wilcox Hall, which opened in 2010. But Gusman felt a larger overhaul was needed for a program that began before 1910, and was housed in a building dedicated in 1950. Punahou Athletic Director Jeaney García agreed and supported the initiative.

Crucial leadership came from long-time tennis supporters, Trustees Wo, Ethan Abbott ’72 and Duncan MacNaughton ’62. The overall cost of the renovation was estimated at about $3 million, and the School set out to raise $1.75 million for its capital campaign. The fundraising goal was met by the time construction began.

Noelehua Lyons ’91 Archambault, senior director of development, was struck by the depth of devotion from Punahou tennis families for the program. One of the first substantial donations came from the Lim Family, Richard and Carin, and their three children – all Punahou tennis champions. Once they got on board, many of the other tennis families followed suit.

“They are very proud of the history of Punahou tennis,” says Archambault, noting that the outpouring of support reflected the strong tradition of Punahou’s tennis community. At the opening ceremony, Friends of Punahou Tennis President Richard Ing ’78 described how three generations of his family have played on the Dillingham courts, adding: “For the next 50 years, I hope these courts will foster future tennis-playing families.”

“I’ve seen what tennis has done for our students,” says Wo. “I believe so much in the extracurricular education here at Punahou, and tennis is one activity that students can begin at a very young age and have exposure to from kindergarten all the way through.”

Boys varsity tennis coach Rusty Komori sees the impact it can have each day. When he takes a new group of players each year, the challenge is to not only continue the streak of state varsity titles – 20 out of 20 and counting – but to promote Gusman’s philosophy of losing with grace, and winning with humility.

“I always feel that if we can help them to act and behave and think properly, then developing their tennis potential becomes a lot easier,” says Komori. “If they are good human beings, developing their tennis is easy.”

Looking ahead, Gusman already envisions a day when national and international schools visit Punahou for tennis tournaments, and he already has outlined plans for one such event – drawing the top programs from northern and southern California to play his squads at the new facility.

“You’ve helped me realize a dream I had when I arrived at Punahou 22 years ago,” Gusman told the crowd at the opening ceremony. “And that is to develop one of the best school tennis programs in the country.”

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