By Roger Cox, Editor
Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, The Omni Grove Park Inn has been a landmark in North Carolina's Blue Ridge Mountains since it opened in 1913. The original Inn, constructed of granite, endures, its Great Hall dominated by massive fireplaces and its rooms notable for their Arts & Crafts furnishings. Two newer, more contemporary wings bring the total number of rooms to 513.
Recreation abounds, including 6 tennis courts (3 indoor, 3 out), an 18-hole Donald Ross golf course, and an expansive sports center (with indoor swimming pool, racquetball court, and separate cardio and weight rooms), and a 43,000-square-foot spa. Omni Hotels & Resorts acquired the Inn in mid 2013 and invested $25 million in resort upgrades.
The tennis allure resides in the setting 2,500 feet up in the Blue Ridge Mountains and its three indoor courts. Guests looking for activity can choose from nine weekly adult clinics, most taught by head pro Wayne Forester. He grew up playing tennis in Asheville and later at North Carolina State University in Raleigh, but a degree in textile materials science landed him a job with Nike helping to custom-make, design, and produce tennis shoes which afforded an opportunity both to travel extensively and to work directly with such Nike athletes as Rafael Nadal, Maria Sharapova, Serena Williams, Pete Sampras, and Andre Agassi, to name a few. It was a dream job, but in 2005 a love of teaching—which he'd pursued while going to college and while working for Nike—and a love of his native Asheville brought him back home in 2005 and a job at the Omni Grove Park Inn.
"We have a special thing at Omni Grove Park Inn," he told me. "We take care of members and hotel guests, but the complex is open to outsiders as well." The indoor courts—which were resurfaced and got a light upgrade when Venus and Serena Williams stayed there during the Fed Cup tie in 2018—allow play year round. Forester and a staff of two part-time pros see to the needs of adults and juniors, whether that's a private or hitting lesson, a clinic, Cardio tennis, summer kids' camps, or Forester's occasional "Fireball Triples," a fast-paced game with three players on each side of the net utilizing an orange ball. Forester also offers specialized League Team training for your team with advance registration. The retail shop within the Sports Complex offers both tennis balls and attire for purchase, however is not expansive enough to offer racquets or shoes.
Tennis and Wine Weekends
Pro Shop: 828-252-2711, ext. 1046
Courts & Fees. There are six hard courts altogether, three indoor and three outdoor. Although there is no formal pro shop, the retail outlet in the Sports Center sells tennis balls and some clothing.
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The Omni Grove Park Inn
There are two general options for guest rooms: the Main Inn, whose rooms though smaller have Arts & Crafts era antique furnishings, CD players, refrigerators, coffeemakers; and the Contemporary Wing, whose rooms are larger and furnished with reproduction Arts & Crafts pieces.290 Macon Ave.
General Tourist Information. For general information about travel within North Carolina, visit the North Carolina Division of Tourism website. For specific information about the Asheville region, visit the Asheville Convention & Visitors Bureau.