YONKERS, N.Y. -- Tucked away in a residential area just off the Sprain Brook Parkway, Yonkers Tennis Center is one of southern Westchester's best kept secrets.
Since 1971, the center, owned by Yonkers native Joe Curto Jr., has been a haven for both casual and serious tennis players alike.
There's no membership fee, and whether you're a beginner looking to enjoy a leisurely game with friends, or a pro training for your next United States Tennis Association (USTA) tournament, you can rent out any of the center's six indoor, air-conditioned courts, learn from 14 certified instructors, and enjoy amenities including sauna, towel service, drinks, snacks and social events.
According to Curto, the center was built by his father along with some other investors as a business venture when tennis first grew in popularity.
Forty years later, it has become a home to players and pros -- many of whom have been teaching at the center and using the 40,000 sq ft facilities since its inception.
Poly Ragno of Pelham and Arianne Udell of Hastings-on-Hudson began playing at the Center recently and are now self-described tennis addicts.
"We had never really played before, but now we're here all the time," said Ragno.
When asked, the staff at Yonkers Tennis Center will give a number of reasons as to why they enjoy working there, but what unites them is their love of the sense of community around them.
"What sets this center apart from similar ones is the quality of the staff," Curto said. "We're like a family here. Everyone knows each other."
General Manager Simon Gale, who has worked at Yonkers Tennis Center for 11 years and is largely responsible for staffing the center, said the first thing he looks for in prospective employees is their passion for the sport, along with the ability to work with people of all ages and backgrounds.
"You need to have a passion for working with all kinds of people to do this job well," he said.
Gale said what he loves most about the center is the people who work and play there.
"I wasn't planning on being here in 10 or 11 years. I thought maybe I'd be here for a couple of years at most," he said. "I had plans to go backpacking in Europe or move to Florida. But, I'm still here with no plans to go anywhere -- and there's a reason for that. It's a good place to work with great people."
Curto also cited the center's high level of community involvement as a point of pride.
"We do a lot of work with the Yonkers Partners in Education," said Curto, who sits on the advisory board.
The center has also partnered with Groundwork Hudson Valley, the Westchester Coalition for the Hungry and Homeless, Sound Shore Medical Center and the Greyston Foundation along with several other local organizations.
The center also happily boasts its status as the nation's leader in Ten and Under Tennis, a title given to them by the USTA for being among the first centers in the U.S. to successfully implement a modified version of tennis for children.
Yonkers Tennis Center offers a number of classes for adults and children of all ages and experience levels. For the summer season, they are hosting free trial days throughout August.
For more information on the center and its various programs, visit their website here . The center is at 493 Sprain Road.