Mayor Mario Zanth shakes hands with Aaron Merkel
Press Release

SCORE Academy has chosen Clarence-Rockland as the home for its new 8-acre campus that will feature indoor and outdoor tennis and pickleball courts, accommodations, as well as food, retail, gym, and office space. The location of the new academy will be on Highway 17, providing ready access for community members and visitors.

On January 17th, Clarence-Rockland’s City Council unanimously approved a memorandum of understanding (MOU) between the City and Rockland Racket Sports, which will develop the project to house SCORE Academy. The MOU states that the facility will be open for public and community use, including memberships, court rentals, leagues, camps, tournaments, and drop-in classes.

In addition to the community use, the campus will feature a performance tennis academy that will house students year-round and be led by world-class sporting coaches. There will also be significant infrastructure for pickleball players, who can now access a year-round facility for drop-in games, leagues, and tournaments.

According to Tennis Canada, the sport has dramatically increased in popularity over the years, but there remain facility challenges that SCORE Academy will help address. There is currently only one covered court per 50,000 Canadians, making Canada last among developed nations for tennis accessibility. Further, 61% of Canadian tennis players use outdoor courts, but would play more tennis if they had access to convenient and affordable covered courts. The growth in tennis is unsurprising, given that it is a safe, affordable, and gender-balanced sport that is popular among every age group.

Phase 1 of the SCORE Academy will begin in the summer of 2024, with an indoor dome housing four tennis courts, ten or more outdoor pickleball courts, and a pavilion. Operations are planned to begin in the fall of 2024 with memberships and community access. Phase 2 will follow in 2025 with a larger main building that will house indoor and outdoor tennis courts, commercial spaces, a restaurant, and retail offerings.

“We chose Clarence-Rockland to be the new home of our academy because it’s a growing and vibrant community that already has a strong history of supporting and promoting sporting enterprises,” says Sean Sweeney, CEO of SCORE Tennis Academy. “We’re lucky to have found partners in the city and development community to help build our vision to be Canada’s premier tennis academy. I couldn’t be more excited about making Clarence-Rockland the home of SCORE Academy.”

"Welcome to the SCORE Tennis Academy! We are delighted that they have chosen the City of Clarence-Rockland as the perfect setting for their new, state-of-the-art tennis school and Pickleball facility. Beyond serving as a premier training destination for local, national, and international athletes, this collaboration ensures that the entire community can partake in the world-class facilities. Who knows? Perhaps the next tennis superstar will emerge right from our municipality," said Clarence-Rockland Mayor Mario Zanth.

SCORE Academy has partnered with Rockland Racket Sport owners Aaron Markel and Brad Cartier to develop the project. These local partners will oversee the construction of the facilities and portions of the ongoing operations. The MOU states the total project costs will be around $20 million for both phases.

“I’m excited for my community,” says Aaron Markel, who will lead the construction of SCORE Academy. “Having attended the Bollettieri tennis academy in Florida when I was younger, I understand the economic and social importance of this development to our community and the positive impact it will have on up-and-coming tennis players worldwide. The SCORE Academy team shares a similar vision, and we are excited to put shovels in the ground to make this dream a reality for both the sport and our community.”

About SCORE Academy

The SCORE Academy is committed to providing top-notch facilities and access to the best resources in the sport, creating an environment that fosters growth and success. Our team of experienced coaches is dedicated to helping players unleash their full potential and elevate their game to new heights.

Mayor Mario Zanth Speech

Mr. Brad Cartier, Aaron Merkel of Rockland Racket Sports, Mr. Sean Sweeney of SCORE Academy, Mr. Julien Leblanc, of Blueprint, dear guests and residents watching live on our Facebook page.  

I will do my speech in English first for our guests here today, and will then repeat it in French for our Francophone viewers on FB Live.  

What a great day for the City of Clarence-RocklandToday, marks a significant milestone for our community. In a few months, neighbouring our Clarence-Rockland Arena, a first-class sporting facility, will be the SCORE Tennis AcademyThe campus will feature a performance tennis academy that will house students year-round and be led by world-class sporting coaches.  

For the City of Clarence-Rockland, this means that our residents will have access to tennis courts but also to pickleball courts. As well all know, pickleball is experiencing a surge in popularity, and has been steadily growing in recent years. 

The decision to establish a high-level sports facility has been a meticulous process, one that involved careful consideration and thorough evaluation. The proximity to existing sporting facilities, such as the Clarence-Rockland Arena and the Canadian International Hockey Academy, creates a synergy that will undoubtedly elevate our community's sporting landscape. This concentration of world-class sporting facilities positions our area to become not only an economic hub but also a destination for sports tourism. 

In a few moments, we will sign a Memorandum of understanding with Rockland Racket Sports who will develop the project and oversee the construction of the facilities and portions of the ongoing operations. Before we do, however, I would like to say a few words about Brad Cartier and Aaron Merkel co-owners of Rockland Racket Sports. 

As the co-owners and founders of Hammond Hill, Small Living Company, and Broken Stick Brewing Company, they have demonstrated a remarkable vision and originality. 

Their endeavors go beyond conventional boundaries, introducing a diverse range of eco-friendly activities to our municipality. Their commitment to sustainable practices and creative ventures not only contributes to the local economy but also enhances the quality of life for our residents.  

We commend Brad and Aaron for their dedication to making a positive impact, and we look forward to witnessing the continued success and growth of their ventures in our community.  

Thank you for being catalysts of innovation and environmental responsibility. Your contributions are truly appreciated. 

Aaron Markel Speech

It is with extreme gratitude and pride that our team and I are able to be here with all of you today.

What started out as a simple phone call less than a year ago has progressed into this MOU we are signing today. It proves without a doubt to me that private public partnership can and does work.

I would like to first start by thanking everyone for being here today. I want to point out how Amazing our city officials/planners/ administrators/councillors and mayor have been through this entire process. I wanted to highlight a few people in particular (Pierre Voisine our CAO, ‘Julien Lienhart and the rest of the executive committee) our mayor Mario Zanth and team of city councillors. I would like to mention that although I have thought of and acknowledge a few people I realize that a project like this cannot and does not happen without a whole team of men and women all pulling in the same direction.  We thank you!

Our friend, colleague, and new business partner. Sean Sweeney founder of Score tennis academy who will be running and operating this facility.  You just need to meet Sean and start to talk about tennis or pickleball to recognize true passion and vision.  We started our week on a zoom call with arguably one of the most recognized and respected men in the world of tennis and academies.  And the zoom call began with a simple statement, and I quote.  “Sean is the right man for this job he bleeds and loves these sports, like no other.”  Sean, welcome to Rockland and we thank you for being such a significant part of this journey.

I wanted to acknowledge my friend and longtime business partner Brad Cartier without whom I would literally never be able to find my emails and notes. He is one of the only people that I know that works the same crazy hours I do while also raising 4 young girls.   Brad, I thank you!

I thought it would be important that I share with everyone why this matters to us and to myself in particular.

Picture if you will, a young 12-year-old version of person standing before you today, this kid is living overseas in East Africa. I loved tennis more than anything.  My dad hired me a coach and I was training 2-3 hours a day after school and on weekends.  Then one day while scouring through my monthly tennis magazine I came across an article about the Nick Bollettieri tennis academy located in Bradenton, Florida.  I was hooked on the idea.  For the next year I begged my parents for the opportunity.  At the end of the year my father finally relented and the next thing I knew my tennis journey was really starting.  I attended NBTA for 2 years and was even voted the most improved player my first year.  I graduated from NBTA with several life lessons that I learned there at a very young age.  Amazing work ethic, focus, and above all passion always leads the way.  I have carried these lessons through the last 30 plus years and I believe they have been key to my being in front of you today as the person responsible for researching and building this facility.

I’m sure if my father were alive today, he would be proud to know that we are setting up a facility to help train the next generation of young boys and girls to chase their dreams whatever they may be.  And to be able to do that by staying close to home and not having to travel to and attend a boarding school in Florida is the icing on the cake.

I mentioned construction and wanted to talk this through.  Several years ago, I changed my company motto and ethos to “Rethink Construction.”  I was discouraged by all the waste that the construction industry produces.  My team and I have since started changing the way we think about construction.  I want to assure you we have already started looking at green tech and applications to this facility.  We are in the process of scheduling meetings with other academies and racket facilities around the world.  In particular focusing on cold weather climate areas.  Our goal is to meet and speak with the men and women that run these facilities.  In particular the people that oversee maintenance and operation.  We want to hear about their successes but more importantly the items they would have changed, the things they dislike about the facility.  That way we can seek to build better and ultimately avoid some pitfalls that others have found.

I believe it is important to close by addressing the most important piece of this message.  I want to be clear this sports facility is not just for high-level athletes.  It’s a place for all our communities’ kids to hit their first serve or forehand.  For young and old to discover pickleball the way I did this summer.  This facility as you may know will dedicate 70% of its court time to community usage, and, furthermore, it will discount by 20% its services to the members of this community.  Making this facility a community centric and focused initiative.

I wanted to give you a taste of some of the upcoming fun and exciting activities we intend to offer:

Hosting free clinics for all ages and levels of players.  I mean why not learn the sport from certified coaches.

Looking to work with our local schools/boards to help introduce racket sports at the school level.

Pro-Am days and events.  Imagine being able to come and meet your tennis heroes and watch high level professional tennis exhibitions.

Organizing demo days with our sponsors and equipment suppliers to introduce everyone to the latest and greatest in equipment and technology.

Summer camps to ensure our kids are active and learning new skills.

Skill clinics, lessons private and group.

Tournaments.  When reaching out to other academies and industry experts during our due diligence period.  The one comment that kept being mentioned was “plan tournaments.”  With pickleball being the fastest growing sport in North America there just aren’t enough facilities to host large tournaments.  We see an amazing opportunity to bring in people from all over Ontario/Quebec/and even northern US states.  Gives our city/municipality a chance to host 100s of people, that all need places to eat, sleep, grab coffee, and so much more.

Truly the list of services and innovative ideas that will be part of this facility are limited only by imagination.  We will be setting up a community forum so that you can reach us with ideas and things you would like to see.

I would like to close with one simple and lasting note.  This racket sports facility and academy is being built by this community and for this community!

Thank you for your time.