By TOM BONE
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
The Bluefield State College men’s tennis team can expect a change in scenery this week.
The Big Blues will find sunny weather in the mid-80s, spectacular Southwest landscapes and a 25-court tennis complex for their competition in the NCAA Division II men’s tennis championships in Surprise, Ariz.
It all starts this evening with a pre-tournament banquet. Competition starts Wednesday and the championship match is scheduled for Saturday.
It’s the first NCAA event to be held in the suburb of the sprawling Phoenix metropolitan area, according to Katie Brown, executive director of the Phoenix Regional Sports Commission. Her organization is hosting the tournament along with Grand Canyon University.
“We want to showcase our amazing facilities out there in Surprise,” Brown said in a phone interview. “It’s obviously important to the community.”
The Surprise Tennis and Racquet Complex opened in 2007 and features a 2,500-seat center-court arena and 17 lighted courts.
“The facility is very beautiful,” Brown said. “We’ve worked closely with the city of Surprise and the Surprise tennis complex on the planning and the operations, and the marketing as well.”
The marketing is a challenge. Surprise, about 45 minutes outside downtown Phoenix, is not always big news in a metropolitan area of 4.263 million people.
For the 16 teams from Division II schools around the country, though, it’s big news. And it starts with something special before the first point is scored in the nationals.
“We have a banquet that is taking place on Tuesday evening at the Surprise tennis facility,” Brown said. “It’s a great, relaxed time for them prior to the competition beginning the next morning.”
Brown said that Phoenix bid to host the tennis nationals “about two years ago now.” She has been in charge of the sports commission since March, after a career that has included important jobs in college athletics, and a law degree from Arizona State University.
In addition to praising the tennis facilities, she was quick to mention the climate in the Phoenix area.
Referring to the humid, often rainy weather for springtime tennis championships in Florida, she said, “We have different weather at this time of the year. Here you can pretty much guess how the weather is going to be — it doesn’t rain.”
“It may be a little warmer than a lot of people are used to,” she said.
“But it’s pretty nice weather to be playing tennis.”
— Contact Tom Bone at