FAIRFIELD — For Phil Cello, a member of the United State Tennis Association Northern California Tennis Hall of Fame, a tennis court is a terrible thing to waste.
Especially when it’s a dozen courts.
The courts in question are at Solano Community College and through fundraising efforts Cello’s spearheading – mostly involving lots of tennis at SCC – Cello aims to establish men’s and women’s tennis teams at the school.
That would reverse a trend that’s seen Solano drop men’s water polo and football over the last decade.
“Believe it or not Solano College is now the largest tennis facility, public or private, in Solano County,” Cello said. “It has 12 courts, 10 of which are lit. Rancho Solano has 11. (In-Shape: Vacaville Browns Valley), which used to have 18, now has 10.”
The school moved to its current campus from Vallejo in the early ’70s and the fact Solano has no tennis teams – Cello can’t find anyone who remembers there ever being any – is a mystery to him.
Long a promoter of the game of tennis at the local, state, regional and national levels, Cello wants to see the sport expand at SCC and in Solano County as well.
Cello figures he’ll promote 14 tournaments in 2014 with eight remaining on the schedule – six are junior tournaments, either challenge or open, the other two for adults. The proceeds would benefit the Solano Tennis and Eduction Foundation, which was established late last year.
A big part of the foundation’s goal is to establish tennis teams at Solano.
“These are all tournaments that I’ve worked to get sanctioned to take advantage of having the facilities here, utilizing it here,” Cello said. “Running the tournaments is one of the ways we’re working to raise money for the foundation.”
Cello recently presented a check for $12,000 to the college’s superintendent/President Jowel Laguerre to go toward the foundation and hopes other corporate and individual donations and fundraising will follow.
It’s a matter of “getting the right people,” Cello said. “The fact is I can show them, ‘Here, this is what I’ve done, I need some help.’ It’s been a rough haul.”
But certainly worth it, especially with the quality of tennis being played at local high schools. Greg Davis at Armijo and Stan Lewis at Vanden have coached both boys and girls league championship teams for more than a decade at their respective schools.
Rodriguez, Vacaville, Benicia, Bethel and American Canyon have either won championships or qualified for the Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs during the last five years. With Napa Valley College not fielding tennis teams, Napa County is another area from which to draw prospective players.
“In reality, Solano County is a hotbed for high school tennis,” Cello said. “Not just a few kids go out but get 30, 40, 50 kids go out to try out for Armijo, Vanden or Rodriguez. Through the years we’ve sent lots and lots of kids off to major and minor colleges and junior colleges. We’ve had to send junior college kids to Santa Rosa JC or Sierra.
“The point of it all is they should be going to Solano College. That’s what our goal is, to raise enough money to support a team. It looks like we’re going to be able to do it. It’s a matter of starting in 2015 or waiting to 2016.”
According to Cello, it would take approximately $30,000 to $35,000 to fund both teams with additional money going toward resurfacing the courts and constructing an office building near the courts.
“It’s not a huge amount of money,” Cello said. “That’s roughly what you need annually. Again, our goal is to get that amount of money in the bank to get that first season and eventually get enough money raised so we can support it on an annual basis.”
He now runs his Cello International Tennis Academy at SCC after having two courts built at his Green Valley home in 1996 for that purpose.
Cello has no desire to coach either of the budding Falcons tennis teams, though he’s interested in finding the right people to coach.
“I’d probably try to help and recruit to find someone to be the coach,” Cello said. “I would not be the coach. I would be active in trying to help the program and work to find someone to do the job and do a good job.”
Reach Paul Farmer at 425-4646, ext. 264. or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/pfarmerdr.