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Davie Stadium is a hidden paradise

Students arriving to Mills College for the first time may not know some of the locations hidden in Oakland’s terrain. Davie Tennis Stadium is one sure to be bypassed by novice Oaklanders and perhaps even those familiar with the area.

Oakland's Davie Stadium at dusk. (Sena Woodson)
Oakland's Davie Stadium at dusk. (Sena Woodson)

Directly cut in half by the boundary between Oakland and Piedmont, Davie tennis courts are set at the base of a breathtaking 100 foot canyon. Although it can be difficult to find, it has one of the most beautiful, secluded and perfect ambiances for playing tennis in the Bay Area and quite possibly in all of California.

Upon entering the gate, the high canyon walls tower above, blanketed with various types of greenery, including eucalyptus, California sycamores, madrones and red elderberries. Five tennis courts stretch across the canyon floor as bird songs and the “whhhack” of tennis balls echo off the canyon walls. The embankment of the canyon also acts as a perfect barrier from the wind while playing tennis.

“It’s like a private tennis court basically,” says 21-year-old Sean Dudey, who played here for his two years while he was on the Skyline High School tennis team. “It’s in a residential neighborhood, tucked away in the back, and the atmosphere is nothing but tennis: the sounds of squeaking tennis shoes, hollow balls and shouts of players.”

Although Davie Stadium is a popular location among some local and expert tennis players due to its perfect setting and tennis conditions, those who are inexperienced should not shy away, as the courts attract a diverse array of tennis players of all ages and skill levels.

“You can go there to find some really good competition, or they have lessons if you want some instruction,” said Dudey.

“We get anyone from little kids to the elderly who have been coming here for 75 years,” said 21-year-old Recreation Leader Satima Bason, who also works at the front desk at the stadium.

Bason has been working at Davie Stadium for two and a half years, but has been playing here for 10. She says most people come not only for the quiet seclusion, but also because it’s a casual atmosphere for the whole family.

“We have five courts, we’re close knit and we have a club house that used to be an old house,” said Bason. “Most people don’t know about Davie and are surprised it’s been here for so long.”

The club house sits near the entrance of Davie. It is a beautiful log cabin that resembles an old cottage with a tall pointed roof, tightly knit shingles and a brick chimney. Inside there are couches, a television and computers available for use by everyone who comes to the courts.

Pictures on the walls show the before and after of the club house building’s location, the men and women veterans who have played on the courts and the champions of the Oakland City Open, which has been held at Davie since 1934.

Despite the stadium’s beauty, the site has not always been the stunning tennis stadium it is today. Before the area was developed for the sport, it was a quarry for rock mining. The site was named after John L. Davie, a five term mayor of Oakland who dedicated the site to the children of Oakland in 1931.

It wasn’t until three years after the dedication that the land was developed through the efforts of the Works Progress Administration, a project initiated by President Franklin Roosevelt.

Today, Davie Stadium is owned by Oakland Parks and Recreation. It requires reservations be made a week in advance for those who want to use the courts during peak hours, which are weekends, holidays and evenings, noon to 2:00 p.m., and 5:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. It costs $8 an hour for adults, $6 for seniors and is free for children 13 and younger.

According to Bason, it is not difficult to get a reservation. “On Tuesdays and Thursdays our older players come in the mornings,” said Bason. “Other than that, call in, give a day and a time and we’ll let you know if that time is available.”

To get there by car, go North on Lakeshore Avenue past the main business district and veer right at the fork to continue on Lakeshore. Take a left on Park Lane (which turns into Oak Road) and continue down until the stadium appears on the right. Or, using AC Transit from Mills, take the NL bus that stops right outside the main entrance towards the San Francisco Terminal and get off at the Lake Park Avenue and Lake Shore Avenue stop. Then, catch the 13 toward Lake Shore and Walavista Avenue and exit at Lake Shore and Park Lane. Walk down Park Lane, which turns into Oak Road, about a block to reach the courts – a relaxing retreat away from campus and rigorous schoolwork.