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MONDAY, FEBRUARY 19, 2007
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Jennifer Denton, left, and Stacey Peebles congratulate each other after scoring a point during a friendly match inside the tennis bubble dome at the Jimmy Johns Tennis Center at Point Mallard Park.
Daily photo by Jonathan Palmer
Jennifer Denton, left, and Stacey Peebles congratulate each other after scoring a point during a friendly match inside the tennis bubble dome at the Jimmy Johns Tennis Center at Point Mallard Park.

Bubble-licious
Tennis dome a warm haven for players who need to keep their game in top form

By Danielle Komis
dkomis@decaturdaily.com · 340-2447

“Bubble talk” is a necessary skill to learn, says Decatur tennis enthusiast Rhonda Wagner.

That is, if you love tennis and hate missing out on practice because it’s too cold or rainy outside.

“Bubble talk” — getting used to the echo your voice creates in the new heated bubble dome at the Jimmy Johns Tennis Center at Point Mallard Park — is one of a few adjustments required if you play there, which Wagner does almost every day. She is president of Decatur Community Tennis Association. To play inside, it costs $20 for two hours.

The fan can be noisy and you might hit the hanging lights if you get overzealous with your swing, but in many ways, playing inside the bubble is not that different from playing outside, she and other tennis players said.

“Sometimes it’s hard to hear, but I’m so willing to take that,” said Whitney Clemons, who practices with Wagner a few times a week in the bubble. “In this cold weather, we’ve been in there at least two times a week.”

The bubble, which opened to the public in late December, has become a favorite place for tennis players who once had to forgo practice in the winter. And for competitive players, that lost practice hurt in competition.

“In Decatur we’ve been at a disadvantage without having the indoor court time,” said Clemons, who plays on a USTA women’s league. “This will even help all of us become better players because we’ll have more court time.”

The outside of the bubble is still littered with construction materials, but inside, it’s peaceful and away from the elements, such as ominous clouds and raindrops that began falling last week while Clemons and Wagner played.

The 38-foot-high dome doesn’t appear that tall inside until you see people on the court and they appear tiny.

A revolving door leads into the 5-ton bubble, and aside from an emergency exit on the other side, it’s the only way in or out. About 20 metal-covered lights hang from the ceiling, designed to keep from glaring down on players.

While there’s definitely an echo inside, the tennis games inside don’t seem much different from a tennis game outside.

In fact, the only drawback of the bubble dome is that it can spoil players and make them forget about wind, sun and light glare they will have to deal with in competitive outdoor tennis, Clemons said.

“You have to get accustomed to the elements,” she said. “It’s best to play outside because it’s best to play in those elements.”

But for Stacey Peebles, who practices with Wagner and Clemons, the bubble dome has saved her from being called a “baby” like Wagner used to call her when Peebles whined about practicing in cold weather.

“She’d call me and say, ‘You need some cheese to go with that wine?’ ” she said, laughing. From inside the warmth of the bubble dome, she smiled.

“We’re happy now.

Ready to serve?

Call: T.C. Almon Recreation Center at 341-4944 to reserve a two-hour time slot.

Hours: 8 a.m. to 9:45 p.m. Monday through Friday, Saturday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Sunday from noon to 6 p.m.

Cost: $20 for two hours, to be paid at the rec center before the session.

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