Welcome to Florida Week! As the tours head southeast for the Miami Open, TENNIS.com and Baseline will feature all things Sunshine State. You’ll learn about the personalities, stories, teams and venues that have made Florida one of the tennis capitals of the world. We’ll also be reporting from the Miami Open in Key Biscayne.
As you’ll learn this week, when it comes to tennis, Florida isn’t just a state—it’s a state of mind.
The Colony. It was an appropriate name, once you dropped the “Beach & Tennis Resort” tag that once appeared in the ads. In those pre-internet days, those ads ran in travel publications and what once were called “women’s” magazines. But first and foremost, they appeared in tennis magazines.
The Colony. It was a nice and simple name. It also was the perfect name. The noun “colony” implies a like purpose for the constituents. For the Jamestown colony, established in 1607 in what is now Virginia, that purpose was establishing the first English settlement in the new world. Yaddo is an artist’s colony, where creative souls bivouac to create art (and drink lots of white wine) undisturbed. The Colony Beach & Tennis Resort, on Longboat Key near Sarasota, Fla., also boasted a mission. It was never declared and it certainly wasn’t a mandate. The Colony, while open to all, was for tennis players.
Like the Jamestown Colony, The Colony resort is gone, the victim of changing times. In recent years, a complicated, bitter, protracted and costly war between the operators of The Colony’s resort portion and the property’s condo owners ran the place into the ground. The big winner in the end was Unicorp National Developments Inc., an Orlando-based developer that bought the entire property last July. The new owners will raze The Colony and create a luxury resort more to their liking.
For over 40 years, The Colony was the grand dame of vacation destinations for devoted tennis players. It didn’t offer the Angeleno gloss of La Costa, in California, with its celebrity head coach, Pancho Segura. It wasn’t floating on the cushion of a massive development plan to fund it, as was Sea Pines Plantation on Hilton Head Island, S.C., where the figurehead pro was Stan Smith. It didn’t boast that it was the home, or at least the second home, to many of the best tennis pros in the world. That honor went to Lakeway, the community/resort affiliated with the World Championship Tennis tour.
What The Colony had was street cred with no-nonsense tennis players. It was authentic. It had a vibe, one that developed organically, not out of some MBA’s data-driven business plan.