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Sarah Vande Berg Tennis Center hosts Florida Senior Games

Giving a thumbs-up at the Florida Senior Games are David Tabb, director of All Florida Pickleball, and Jimmie Stokes, who won three gold medals in the tournament.
Giving a thumbs-up at the Florida Senior Games are David Tabb, director of All Florida Pickleball, and Jimmie Stokes, who won three gold medals in the tournament.

Previously held at The Villages, the Florida Senior Games returned to Pasco County for a second straight winter. It also marked a second consecutive year for the state’s pickleball

tournament to be played on the courts at the Sarah Vande Berg Tennis Center.


Mick Buckley, SVB’s events manager, welcomed the Florida Senior Games as well as various tournaments in other sports that have scheduled events, such as tennis and padel, since that

facility opened three years ago.


“Having people know about this facility is very helpful,” he said. “Once you’re here you can see how special it is.”


Indeed, many people saw exactly that. That included Andy Rubenstein, the state’s pickleball tournament director.


“I personally like going there,” he said. “It’s a nice open space for everybody.”


Players in the Florida Senior Games warm up on the pickleball courts before their matches get underway.
Players in the Florida Senior Games warm up before their matches get underway.

“It’s cool because this is one of the few tournaments where seniors are the sole focus,” added David Tabb, the assistant tournament director who runs All Florida Pickleball.


Some have played at SVB before while others were newcomers to the facility. Many concurred with management and organizers.


“This is a great facility. All the courts are well-kept and it’s clean,” said Orlando’s Chris Ruggiero, who won in mixed doubles with Daytona’s Tracy Lestochi.


Tampa’s Chris Kellogg and Andrew Amento of Westchase waited their turn in mixed doubles by warming up on an adjacent padel court that was not being used at the time.


Chris Kellogg returns a high shot from Andrew Amento while volleying on a nearby padel court.
Chris Kellogg returns a high shot from Andrew Amento while volleying on a nearby padel court.

“It’s open and the courts are in great shape,” Amento said.


Billed as an Olympic-style event for active adults, the games, hosted by the Florida Sports Foundation and Florida’s Sports Coast, are in the midst of a three-year run in Pasco. This

year’s 32nd version of the games featured nearly 2,000 athletes competing in such events as track, weightlifting, swimming and shuffleboard.


As for pickleball, 482 players qualified by cracking the top five in county tournaments this year. They competed in the four-day pickleball tourney at SVB.


“It’s great because you play people your own age,” said Jimmie Stokes, a two-time winner last year who won three gold medals this year.


Andy Rubenstein, the state’s pickleball tournament director, stands at the registration table. Seated are volunteer Terri Tracy and Rubenstein’s wife, Cinthya.
Andy Rubenstein, the state’s pickleball tournament director, stands at the registration table. Seated are volunteer Terri Tracy and Rubenstein’s wife, Cinthya.

Stokes and Rita Jones, along with Stokes’ daughter Terri Tracy, were among several Zephyrhills residents who played in the tourney and volunteered to help organize the event.


In all, eight Zephyrhills residents from Betmar Acres, a retirement community, medaled in the games. Joining Stokes as gold medalists were Sandy Bedingfeld and Lenny Calodny.


By Steve Lee

Times Total Media Correspondent

Photos by Steve Lee

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