There's tennis amid the cornfields 2013.05.01

Written by David Green. Posted in Feature Stories

By DAVID GREEN

rayba.RS.2rayba.ten courtAs Ron Rayba likes to tell it, some mysterious man walked out of a cornfield on the Rayba farm and told him to build a tennis court.

He likes that "Field of Dreams" analogy, because just like Kevin Costner's baseball field in the middle of nowhere, Ron and Sandra Rayba have a lighted tennis court surrounded by corn and soybean fields. And they also have an indoor swimming pool, a reception hall that seats a hundred guests, and more.

It's an unlikely spot for a tennis retreat, just south of the intersection of Squawfield (Medina) and Coman roads between Waldron and Hudson.

Ron recalls a car speeding by on Coman one day that suddenly skidded to a stop. The driver got out and yelled, "Is that a tennis court?"

And then there was the guy who was back in the area visiting family. He discovered the retreat and stopped in to play tennis. He was soon on the phone talking to a friend back home in California.

"It's a tennis field of dreams!" he said. "It's in the middle of a cornfield."

By the time Ron decided to build his own tennis court, he was no longer the novice farmer played by Costner in the movie. That stage of his life occurred several years earlier.

"I always wanted to be a farmer," Ron said, but becoming one was a long time in the making. "It took us three years to find a place."

When they found out about the former Phil Luma farm in 1995, it was love at first sight.

"I love everything about this place," he said.

After moving to the farm from the Detroit suburb of Lincoln Park, Ron began commuting to work at a steel plant in Ecorse. In his spare time, he learned to become a farmer. They started with pigs, then moved to beef cattle. His buddies at the plant loved it. They were buying farm-fresh meat that had a different taste than what came from the supermarket.

The bacon was especially popular. Sandra remembers being asked if there was a bacon pig—an animal that would produce nothing but bacon.

But he had his farm, and now he devoted all his attention to that while his wife kept her job with a brokerage firm in the Detroit area. Not all of his attention went to farming. Ron also maintained his love for tennis.

He tried to work with Fayette's village council to fix up the courts in the park, but got nowhere. He's tried to drum up interest in fixing Morenci's courts, also. It wouldn't be very expensive, he said, and matching grants are available.

The farm is closest to Hudson and an experience there a few years ago sparked the decision to build a court at the farm. 

"We offered them money to fix their courts and they turned us down," Ron said, "so I said, 'Let's build our own.' I've been giving tennis lessons ever since."

That was the beginning of Rayba's Tennis Retreat in 2009, but even more emerged from the cornfields two years later.

"Ron always wanted a tennis court and I wanted a pool," Sandra said.

"This has all taken on a life of its own," Ron said.

The 20- by 40-foot indoor pool is down the hallway from the dining facility with the commercial kitchen. Adjacent to the tennis court is an outdoor kitchen with a grill and tables for eating. The pool and dining hall will be a year old at the end of May.

The Raybas would like to see guests from Hillsdale, Adrian and Wauseon, but they know there are tennis and swimming facilities in those communities. 

"What we have is a great recreational opportunity for all of us in the middle," Ron said, and those people are learning about the retreat.

The Raybas are drawing visitors from throughout the area for a variety of activities. Ron has tennis students, they've rented the hall for weddings and several graduation parties are coming soon. They're already taking reservations for family Christmas parties.

"Water aerobics is what's really the ticket," Sandra said. 

More than 50 people are participating currently and they've recently added two new classes. Phyllis Sigler of Pittsford serves as the teacher for the regular water aerobics class and another Pittsford resident, Irma Kramer, handles the Water Zumba class. A Zumba Gold class is also offered—Zumba modified for older participants, inactive younger people, and those with certain medical conditions.

There's also yoga and high-impact water aerobics, and an arthritic aerobics class will start in June

"The classes are really popular," Sandra said. "It's overwhelming."

The Raybas have searched for months to find a swimming instructor and they finally have one signed up, with classes scheduled to start next month.

The third Spa Day is scheduled Saturday, offering everything from manicures and eyebrow waxing to yoga and wine tasting.

The Raybas are thinking about a further expansion of the retreat. They intend to create a walking trail through the 77-acre wetland reserve across the road, and there's other growth potential still in the planning stages.

Every week they hear people thank them for offering the classes—classes that are closer to home without the need to drive a long distance.

"It gives us some validation that we did the right thing," Sandra said.

They also think about the fun that families have had together, particularly a Christmas party last year.

"It's exciting," said Ron. "It makes you feel good."

It also makes him feel rather busy. He might have left dairy farming behind, but not the demanding schedule.

"It's just like dairying. I'm here all the time," he said.

• For more information about the facility, visit the website at www.raybastennisretreat.com.

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