Students, faculty and alumni have discovered a place to play games and sports besides the Weinstein Recreation and Wellness Center or the Intramural fields - a place that even has a lake twice the size of Westhampton Lake.
Wood N' Racket Farm is a racket club in Gum Spring, Va., about a 30-minute drive from campus. It boasts two Har-Tru tennis courts, two grass tennis courts open seasonally, a doubles squash court, a mile of nature trails including a Vita Par outdoor exercise course and a tree swing, a 10-acre lake for fishing, canoeing and kayaking, as well as areas for horseshoe, croquet, badminton, basketball, 18 holes of disc golf and a 4,200 square foot clubhouse with facilities for table tennis and ring toss, according to the farm's Web site.
Other areas of the farm are under construction, but there will soon be a second squash court, a pool and a guest cottage that will host up to 16 people, said Thomas Richards, Richmond College '78 alumnus and owner of Wood N' Racket Farm. Richards also plans to offer night badminton and Frisbee - using glow-in-the-dark shuttlecocks and discs that light up, he said.
"It's a different kind of place," he said. "There aren't a lot of places even in the country that have courts like I have."
The club offers a range of membership plans, including "The Grand Slam," which covers use of all facilities, instruction fees, league fees and socials. The plan costs $1,400 per year for a person, $1,800 per year for families and $900 per year for seniors. Other options and prices can be viewed under "membership plans" in the "Participation" section of the Wood N' Racket Web site.
Richards has played and coached for the University of Richmond tennis team, and the farm has already gotten the attention of Richmond community members such as President Edward Ayers; Sgt. Eric Beatty; mathematics professor Jim Davis and his daughter, senior Lauren Davis; and members of the football team including Eric Ward, Seth Williams and Kevin Grayson, who also helped construct the farm's clubhouse during the summer of 2007, Richards said. Beatty and the football players spent five to six weeks doing construction on the farm, Richards said.
"I just needed some more help," he said. "It turned out to be a lot of fun. It certainly has been fun to see them have that great success."
Davis, who plays squash at the university's courts about twice a week with her dad, said she had spent a lot of time at the farm during the summer.
"I really love it because many of the members come for an entire afternoon and then grill out for dinner," she said. "It is a very welcoming place that really makes you feel more like you belong to a big family rather than just have a membership to a club."
Ayers' schedule is too full for him to go out to the farm often, but he plays at the University squash courts regularly, a representative from the President's office said.
"He is a pretty big advocate of the racket sports," Richards said, "in particular squash."
Richards is working to draw more college students to play at the farm. He is hosting a college game day at 2 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 20. It costs $15 to get into the farm, a price that includes a barbecue lunch, although guests are always welcome to bring their own food and drink to the farm, he said.
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One thing he won't allow on the premises, however, is television.
"It's all about doing stuff actively instead of sitting and watching TV," he said.
Contact staff writer Avril Lighty at firstname.lastname@example.org
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