A longtime vision for a new place to play tennis finally is coming true for Drake Nicholson, who expects to open Steamboat Tennis & Athletic Club this month.
How long has it been? Well, Nicholson first pursued the idea in 2003 when he and his family lived on Madrona Beach Road. It was then that he thought the Steamboat Island area could benefit from an athletic facility.
It didn’t happen overnight, and the Nicholsons now live in Tumwater, but here he is, putting the finishing touches on a 25,500-square-foot building with four indoor tennis courts, plus bathrooms, including lockers and showers. There’s also a swimming pool and plans for a second building for racquetball, aerobics and exercise equipment.
Nicholson is just waiting for an occupancy permit from the county and then he can open the doors.
He said he’s not looking to go head-to-head with the Tumwater Valley Athletic Club, but wants to open a place for those “looking for more court time,” as well as to cater to those in the area. He expects Griffin School District will take advantage of the new club.
So far Nicholson has signed up about 50 members. After an initiation fee of about $300, the business charges monthly dues of $94 for an individual, $124 for a couple and $142 for a family.
Nicholson, 58, is perhaps best known for his insurance business, Nicholson & Associates Insurance, but he also plays tennis three times a week. He was introduced to tennis by his parents, Larry and Marlene Nicholson, who embraced it as a “great life sport.” His father would play until he was 76, he said.
Drake played at Centralia College and on the club team at the University of Washington. He also is a former assistant tennis coach at Capital High School. His USTA ranking is 4.5, which signifies a skilled player. He enjoys both singles and doubles and considers the strongest part of his game his “consistency.”
In other words, he doesn’t beat himself on the court, he said.
His favorite player growing up was Jimmy Connors, one of the original tennis brats, Nicholson said. Both of them are left-handed, plus he always liked Jimmy’s winning pose.
But he could never act like Connors on the court, largely because his father, who served in the Korean War, was a disciplinarian who wouldn’t have tolerated it, he said.
His mother also played tennis, but her real sport was golf, Nicholson said. Over her golf career, Marlene Nicholson was credited with five hole-in-one shots, he said.
Among those on the staff at the center is Ali Hollandsworth, office manager, and Cody Leimback, assistant tennis pro.
Leimback played at Yelm High School and for West Chester University in Pennsylvania.
“I’ve always wanted to teach,” he said.
Steamboat Tennis & Athletic Club LLC
Owner: Drake Nicholson, managing member.
Location: 3505 Steamboat Island Road NW Olympia, WA 98502.
Years in business: Nicholson expects to open this month. A grand opening is tentatively set for Oct. 17.
Online: Find on Facebook or at staclife.com.
Hours: 8 a.m.-10 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays; 8 a.m.-9 p.m. Fridays; 8 a.m.-8 p.m. Saturdays; and 8 a.m.-6 p.m. Sundays.
Advice to business owners: Be willing to work with everyone. Do your research and surround yourself with good people. Don’t be afraid to take that next step. You have to swing that bat, you have to try, Nicholson said. We’re so busy limiting ourselves, he said. You don’t try, you don’t do. As his mother used to say: “He who deliberates fully before taking a step will spend their entire life on one leg.”
Did you know? Drake Nicholson is the owner of Nicholson & Associates Insurance, an insurance business with three locations, including in Olympia. It was started by his parents, Larry and Marlene Nicholson, in 1965 and Drake joined the business in 1983.