By Dan Harrison
---- — At first glance, the Boston Lobsters’ new home court — the Joan Norton Tennis Center at the Manchester Athletic Club — looks similar to the venue that the team had for the last five years at the Ferncroft Country Club in Middleton.
However, there are a few subtle differences that aim to benefit both the players on the court and the fans in the stands.
Like at the Ferncroft, this year’s stadium will have seating along both sidelines and one of the baselines, and have a large LED screen in back of the other baseline. But the court has now been expanded from 120-feet-by-60-feet to the 130-feet-by-70-feet dimensions of championship surfaces, like at Wimbledon and the French Open. The players are more accustomed to the extra area and this added room will influence play and potentially increase the excitement.
“When there’s a bigger court, the players naturally see more angles because there’s more space to the sides,” says Lobsters head coach Bud Schultz. “When the court is smaller, the players tend to visually play straight through, but as players run down bigger angles they’ll do something the average fan can’t even think of, never mind attempt doing.”
While the court itself is larger, the configuration of the stadium has sideline sections that are longer but not as deep as before. The number of seats has dropped from 1,760 to 1,600. The result is a more intimate environment, one that will allow spectators to see the entire playing surface and not miss any action.
“You’re going to feel right on top of the court and the players to the point where you can reach out and touch them,” Schultz said.
In addition, the stadium itself is closer to the ocean than was in previous years.
“It’s North Shore by the water,” Schultz said. “I’m sure there will be some matches where you can smell the ocean. If you want to see quintessential New England, all you have to do is drive a mile one way or the other.”