The Brooklyn Tennis Racket


Proceeds from Battle of the Boroughs, a friendly tennis competition for adult athletes around the city, help fund free tennis lessons for children through the City Parks Foundation. Photo: CPF

Proceeds from Battle of the Boroughs, a friendly tennis competition for adult athletes around the city, will help fund free tennis lessons for children through the City Parks Foundation. Photo: CPF

There are public tennis courts all over Brooklyn. Whether you’re a passionate amateur player or a beginner, here are some of the prime tennis spots around Brooklyn (and one in Queens) for you.

What you’ll need

Permits: Like everything in New York the system is slightly byzantine, but you just have to dive in and be unafraid to ask questions along the way. For $15, you can get a single-day pass for one hour on a public court. Most courts in Manhattan have someone keeping track of permits and schedules, but in Brooklyn it’s a bit more lax. There might be some days where there’s not enough staffing to have an attendant at every court. Nevertheless, it’s always good to have a couple on hand.

Another option is the $200 permit for the season (10% off with an IDNYC card). Keep in mind that tennis season runs until the Sunday before Thanksgiving. Get the season pass if you’re going to be out there frequently and keep its expiration date in mind. You can also reserve some courts online (including McCarren Park and Prospect Park) for $15 per hour, with a season permit. You can purchase permits online, or in person at Paragon Sports and the Brooklyn Permit Center. Court reservation passes for use at Prospect Park and Central Park may only be purchased by season pass holders

Balls: Yes, they matter. If you’re playing on a hard court, look for tennis balls marked “extra duty.” They have more felt, allowing them to last longer against the rough texture of the surface. Go for “regular” duty if you’re going to be on a clay or Har-Tru court. These balls have less fuzz, so they won’t get heavy (from picking up clay) or fluffy during extended play on these surfaces.

Strings: Try and get your rackets restrung at least once a year. Extended periods of tension on the racket’s grommets are bad for the frame. Getting your racket restrung can cost anywhere from $15-$60, depending on what type of string you use. At sports stores like Paragon in Union Square, labor is already added in the price. Beginners should generally be looking on the lower end of the price scale.

The Courts

Finishing touches are being completed on the tennis courts at Fort Greene Park, following a restoration earlier this spring. Photo: BB

Finishing touches are underway on the tennis courts at Fort Greene Park, following a restoration earlier this spring. Photo: BB

Fort Greene Park
The six hard courts at Fort Greene Park were repaved a few years back. This is a court with an established tennis community all ready to come out swinging, which also raised funds for the resurfacing through the Fort Greene Tennis Association.

What you’ll find here is an active community, annual tournaments organized by the FGTA, as well as  the Fort Greene Tennis Ladder, and future hitting partners. The afternoons, like most public tennis courts, are the prime time to go.

Aces: Active community. Nice setting.
Faults: Courts fill up fast and can only be reserved an hour in advance.

Prospect Park
50 Parkside Avenue
The Prospect Park tennis center is Brooklyn’s answer to Central Park. The 11 courts are a combination of Har-Tru and hard courts. The Har-Tru surface holds up better under the elements, and is softer on the knees. These courts also prolong rallies because they dull the pace of the ball. The hard courts are in pretty good shape thanks to bubbling during the winter. Prospect Park also offers lessons, for adult beginners and for more advanced players, with the park’s tennis pros, starting at $30 an hour. There’s also tennis camp for kids and a league for your hitting partner needs.

This great facility hasn’t gone unnoticed. You may need a court reservation pass to get on a court here, and nighttime hours are more expensive. There are also lessons available, for both groups and individuals. On a recent Sunday morning, there were a few courts open, but it’s probably best to get a season pass along with court reservation passes.

Aces: Great Courts. A variety of surfaces. Online reservation form. Lights allow play until 11pm.
Faults: Busy. Can be expensive.

Leif Ericson Courts
Dyker Heights
66th St & 8th Ave
The place sounds more like Nordic wonderland than a tennis mecca, but there’s action here. The nine courts are of the hard-court variety, and the prime time to find an open spot seems to be the morning while the glut of play takes place around 4pm (as visited on a recent weekend). Unfortunately some of the courts have cracks and need to be resurfaced. Ideally, these courts are probably best for beginners where a wayward bounce here and there won’t affect play as it would in a competitive match. The park is a short walk from the 8th Ave. stop on the N train.

Aces: Not too busy. Good number of courts.
Faults: Some of the courts need to be resurfaced.

McCarren Park
N. 13th St. between Bedford and Berry
(718) 218-2380
There are eight hard courts in McCarren Park, two of which are half-size for kids–children’s permits up until age 18 are only $10 for a season. The courts are in relatively good condition, and get busy at night and on the weekends. You can often walk on during the day and it pays to make friends with the regular court attendant, Irene. You can reserve courts here online, Wednesday through Sunday.  Take note: there’s a serious Polish tennis community and they can get very vocal on the courts with one another–but don’t be intimidated.

BB tip: on days when online reservations aren’t available, check in with Irene on your way to work to reserve a spot for later. You’ll need to buy court passes in advance to do this, so carry some on you.

Aces: Nice courts, great for kids, if you join the McCarren Park Play Center for $100 a year, you can shower after you play.
Faults: Can get crowded and slightly intense.

Marine Park
Jamaica Bay
Fillmore Ave. & Stuart St.
If you want to play on one of the 15 courts here, late afternoon/early evening or morning are the best times. The waits aren’t too bad, but try to get a spot toward the middle of the facility as there’s the least wear and tear on these courts.

While Marine Park is great find for far South Brooklynites, the commute can be rough for everyone else, though the park is enormous and has bocce courts, baseball fields, even a cricket field–but that’s another post. The closest train is the B at King’s Highway, which is a 15-20 minute walk away from the facilities. After a couple hours of tennis, that walk can feel a bit longer. Here’s hoping your hitting partners have cars.

Aces: Lots of courts. Wait isn’t bad.
Faults: Lack of regular advanced players. Some of the courts are showing signs of wear and tear. Commute.

USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center
Flushing Meadows, Queens
The No. 7 train, the trek to another borough, the commute–it’s all worth it. The Billie Jean King National Tennis Center is home to over 30 of the best courts you’ll find in the city. The deco-turf surfaced courts are beautifully maintained, well lit and there’s even a set of indoor courts to play on when the weather doesn’t cooperate. For 11 months out of the year, BJK is open to the public (the U.S. Open fortnight is the exception).

The only drawback is the price. Playing here can cost you anywhere from $20-$66 per hour. Play starts as early as 6am and runs until midnight. Lessons are also available.

BB tip: try and book two hours before closing time. Sometimes no one will show for that closing hour and you may be able to get a second hour of play for free.

Aces: Courts are in great shape. Tons of courts. Lessons available. Great facility.
Faults: Play can be expensive. Commute.

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