This spot is better for exercise than the finest health clubs: Sinsheimer Park in San Luis Obispo. Boasting four oversized lighted courts at the Helena Street park entrance, parallel to Augusta Road, this is where semi-pros and Joes face off daily from 7 a.m. to lights out at 9 or 10 p.m. You might catch a teen practicing for a squad, a father and daughter going over tennis fundamentals, or even an ex-WTA player who shows flashes of brilliance, according to court regulars. Adjacent to Sinsheimer Elementary School, this sports-savvy complex includes two baseball fields, an Olympic-size swimming pool, and a serene tree-lined path leading to, yes, a Frisbee golf course. Amid this exercise oasis are the clean, and largely occupied, tennis courts.
Across town, on the Cal Poly campus at the corner of Longview Lane and Hathway Avenue, are the student tennis courts, which definitely are a cool place to play. The 24-hour “tennis-junkie” lights have helped students and locals relieve stress for years. Always clean—thanks to groundskeepers—these courts are the Central Coast’s best playing surfaces.
Arrive any time before 8 a.m. or after 4 p.m., and your chances of picking up a game here exceed anywhere else on the list. Even during irregular hours, these courts are played by the best and brightest competition around.
Twelve miles from San Luis Obispo via Los Osos Valley Road, hang a right on Palisades Avenue, to find three courts next to the Southbay Community Center. This classic site, with tall chain-link fences and a strangely aged but immaculate court surface, is the meeting place of six friends playing out old grudges on Wednesday afternoons. They slug it out in an intense game they say is the style of most local Filipino players: hard-hitting and quick. If your joints aren’t too shaky and you don’t shrink from young competitors, seek these tennis hotshots and others after 5 p.m. Tuesday through Friday. Lights flood the courts until 9 p.m. during weekdays, and you can play on Saturday until dark. The courts are close to everything in town. Grab a Sylvester’s burger and admire the beautiful flowers at the corner of 12th Street and Santa Ynez to recharge.
In Morro Bay, the unassuming courts at Monte Young Park on the corner of Napa Avenue and South Street provide a sanctuary for older locals who enjoy a leisurely pace.
Almost any time after 6 a.m. during the summer, the green patch here is populated with players in their autumn years savoring graceful games. These courts keep a broom handy for the large corner pine, and the crowd keeps them extra tidy.
A plaque at the entrance speaks volumes about the neighborhood: It warns players not to trespass if balls are hit over the fence and prohibits cursing and yelling. From what I’ve observed, you wouldn’t have to worry too much about such problems, given the slow, silent game play, but I was told wandering students occupy these courts after 4 p.m. on weekdays. The cool ocean breeze helps extend play.
Atascadero Junior High School’s pair of tan-and-brown tennis courts have low fences, so beware of errant serves. But they boast a fine playing surface, if a tad dusty, and the picturesque Veterans’ Memorial Building really adds to the “can’t-find-this-anywhere-else” quality. School hours bar playing from 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. There are no lights. You can’t park at the court lot, but otherwise there are plenty of spots and plenty of varied competition.
Head north to check out Paso Robles’ near-perfect Centennial Park off of Creston Road. The serene central tennis courts are a Central Coast haven. Except for Tuesday and Wednesday early mornings when the courts are cleaned, you can play all day until 10 p.m. when the lights go out. High-schoolers, college players, coaches, and part-time athletes populate the place, but the wait is usually no issue. Show up after school hours on weekdays or in the morning on weekends.
What truly separates Centennial is the year-round comfort, interrupted only by hard rain or really, really excessive heat. Sinsheimer Park’s centerpiece is the Blues’ baseball stadium; Centennial’s main attraction is these courts, beckoning the faithful as though they are tennis’s own Field of Dreams.
That wraps up the tour. I’m eager to see you on the courts. Remember, sport is the true fountain of youth. ∆
Daniel S. Corpuz is a freelance writer. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.