The History of The Stuart Blazer Foundation and the Ashland Tennis Center
In December of 1952, Georgia and Paul Garrett Blazer established the Stuart Blazer Foundation in memory of their son who had been killed in action in Korea two months previously. From that point in time, Paul Blazer quietly and often anonymously began developing recreational, educational, religious, and cultural programs both in Ashland and throughout Kentucky.
Operating from the philosophy that programs should be developed which would be equally beneficial to all members of the community, Mr. Blazer used his creative imagination to turn his many humanitarian interests into organized activities that were available to persons of all social and economic levels. His most noted recreational endeavors in the Ashland area include a gift of a swimming facility to the Paul G. Blazer High School, development of the high school parking lot into one of the finest track and recreational facilities in the Eastern Kentucky area, and the organization of free baseball, football, basketball, and track clinics for Ashland’s youth.
Following Mr. Blazer’s death in 1966, Mrs. Blazer and the Blazer family continued to keep alive and expand the ideology which had permeated Mr. Blazer’s thoughts during his lifetime. In the Spring of 1972, the officers of the Stuart Blazer Foundation began planning for the development of the Ashland Tennis Center. Shortly thereafter, a committee was formed and plans for the new site were formulated. Utilizing over $400,000 donated by the Blazer Foundation, the Ashland Tennis Center was opened in the Summer of 1974 on property provided through an agreement with the Ashland Board of Education, Ashland Community College and the City of Ashland. The tennis center is directed by a seven member Ashland Tennis Commission which is appointed by the Mayor. The tennis center was to be a public municipal tennis facility with no membership fees and nominal court fees for its patrons. Juniors would play free on the outdoor courts and can use the indoor courts for free when they are not in use by paying customers. The tennis center was a gift to the city with the understanding that it must be self-supported as no tax dollars would be given for its operation from the City of Ashland or the State of Kentucky. The tennis center operates and relies on revenues generated form lessons, clinics, court time rentals, pro shop sales and individual donations.
Originally the tennis center sported sixteen Plexi-paved courts. Today the tennis center is a year round facility with four indoor and eleven outdoor tennis courts, a practice wall and model clubhouse with locker room facilities and a Pro Shop. Night play is also available as six courts have tournament quality lighting.
In 1997 The Ashland Tennis Commission approved a massive renovation project to rebuild ten of the eleven outdoor courts. At the same time new tournament quality lighting was installed on six courts. Previously only three courts were lit for night time play. The total cost of the renovation exceeded $600,000.00. In 2004 a new lighting and reflective ceiling system were installed on the four indoor tennis courts. The old lights were over 30 years old and provided inadequate lighting. This renovation cost $225,000.00. The Our Lady of Bellefonte Hospital Tennis Classic was held at the Ashland Tennis Center for five years from 2004 -2008 until the tennis courts were cracking to the point that the USTA would not certify them another year without a major resurfacing project. In 2017 the tennis courts were resurfaced but the winter of 2018 was very severe with larger cracks opening up. The tournament was given back to the Ashland Tennis Center in 2018 with the provision that four tournament courts be resurfaced with the cracks repaired. Tennis Technology was contacted and contracted for the repair work to begin on May 12, 2018, and be finished by June 9th, 2018.
Brian Earley of the USTA will be back to reinspect the courts to certify them for the Braidy Industries $60,000 Women’s Tennis Classic, A USTA Pro Circuit Event Presented by Bon Secours Our Lady of Bellefonte Hospital.
Any money raised by the 2018 tournament will be dedicated to the repair and maintenance of the Ashland Tennis Center by the Greater Ashland Tennis Association (GATA).