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By Melanie Brandert

Augustana College announced plans Thursday to build a tennis center as part of an ongoing effort to improve athletic facilities on campus.

The new addition will allow Augustana's tennis teams to return to campus for practices and matches, and also will be open to the community.

Huether Tennis Centre - named for donors Mike and Cindy Huether - will feature six US Open regulation courts on Grange Avenue between 31st and 33rd streets, Athletic Director Bill Gross said. Cindy Huether coaches girls tennis at Washington High School.

Mike Huether said the college stuck out as a partner because of its community involvement and progressiveness. He declined to state the amount, but President Rob Oliver said about half of the $300,000 project is funded with the donation.

"It's been a vision of ours for awhile. We've just been trying to find the right partner to execute," Huether said, fighting tears at one point.

The tennis center is the latest of several Augustana athletic improvement projects, such as Kirkeby-Over Stadium now being built.

Gross said the courts will have a tennis shack, retaining walls on both sides and landscaping.

Oliver said that when the Huethers looked at how they could continue to be good community participants, the notion of rebuilding the tennis center was born.

"A gift to us that creates joy for us is creating so much joy for them," he said.

Oliver said the college needs to find donors for the rest of the project. Once that task is finished, construction will start this spring, he said.

Augustana men's and women's head tennis coach Marc Kurtz said the team has been forced to practice and compete at Sioux Empire Fitness or McKennan Park.

He noted the old courts were built too close together. Players could run into the other court at doubles matches - creating a potential injury issue.

"Our courts on campus were not playable the way they were," Kurtz said. "It's something that was needed and something that we're grateful for."

Alison Broadwell, a junior women's tennis player from Sartell, Minn., said she looks forward to leaving the old court behind and being the first team to compete on the new court next spring.

"We had one practice my freshman year. There's so many cracks and things so your ball will actually hit the crack and not stay in court like it's supposed to," she said.