Baseline Tennis Center brings in rental revenue

The University of Minnesota's tennis facility brought in about $595,000 in revenue last year.

Junior chemical engineering major Joe Amato practices at the Baseline Tennis Center on Monday, Sept. 9, 2013. The facility generated a total of $595,000 in rental income for the athletics department this year, more than any University athletic facility.

Ichigo Takikawa

Junior chemical engineering major Joe Amato practices at the Baseline Tennis Center on Monday, Sept. 9, 2013. The facility generated a total of $595,000 in rental income for the athletics department this year, more than any University athletic facility.

Jake Stark

When Baseline Tennis Center opened in 2002, the University of Minnesota expected it to generate rental revenue.

In the decade-plus since, the facility has far exceeded expectations.

The facility generated a total of about $595,000 in rental income for the University’s athletics department this fiscal year. That’s money beyond the revenue it brings in for hosting Gophers men’s and women’s tennis matches.

While TCF Bank Stadium can make revenue off major events like concerts, higher operating costs take away from its overall profit. The facility grossed $687,356 in rental revenue last fiscal year but netted $474,122 from renting out the field and premium spaces, such as the DQ Club Room.

No other sports facility on campus — including Williams, Mariucci and Ridder arenas and the Sports Pavilion — has grossed more than about $270,000 in rental revenue in the last fiscal year.

“We fill really all that we can to generate revenue,” John Pratt, Baseline’s director, said.

Baseline rents out both of its courts to University students, staff and public patrons. Though students and staff can use the outdoor courts for free, they pay $20-$22 per session for indoor courts.

“I would say those rates are mostly fair,” said sophomore Derek Struss, who plays tennis at the facility. “I’d say they shouldn’t cost any more than they already do, though.”

Those not affiliated with the University must pay to reserve both indoor and outdoor courts. The cost is $6 per session for outdoor courts and $20 to $26 per session for indoor courts.

As one of the only major public tennis facilities in the Twin Cities area, Pratt said, Baseline is often extremely busy.

“We guess that anywhere from a quarter of a million to 300,000 people walk through our doors per year,” he said.

Struss said it’s one of the few places in the area he can go and rent space on an indoor court.

“Coming out of high school, I never had an indoor court to play in,” he said. “It’s one of the few places I can play indoors, which is important during the winter.”

Though Baseline welcomes a high volume of customers each year, the facility only has two full-time employees.

In addition to Pratt and Head Tennis Professional Dana Young, Baseline only employs eight to 10 students part-time. Having a small staff can keep operating costs down, Pratt said, but it can also make the facility difficult to manage.

“To be honest with you, it’s just a lot of hard work,” he said. “I think as we move along, we’ve kind of gotten a better handle on the business and how it works.”

Pratt said Baseline has grown more than he expected since it opened, but he said he thinks the facility is nearing its capacity.

“We’re getting close,” he said. “Our growth potential is a finite number.”

He also said any future updates to the facility will be focused on improving it for the Gophers tennis program.

“That’s not to say we don’t have room for more courts, because we’re not at full capacity yet,” he said. “But that number dwindles every year.”

Pratt said he would like to see an outdoor stadium for the Gophers tennis teams in the future.

“We have big ideas and big hopes,” he said. “[An outdoor stadium] is our biggest need here.”