Chris Sabaitis was sitting in a coffee shop as he waited for his scheduled tennis match with a friend. He was downtown, and he had booked a court at the top of Manhattan on the indoor courts at Columbia University.
“I started thinking to myself that there has to be a number of courts, not necessarily public ones, around the city that were open in that moment,” recalls Sabaitis. “There’s no reason that we couldn’t pay a nominal fee to play at a court closer so we don’t have to travel all the way to the top of Manhattan to play for an hour and then schlep all the way back.”
With that idea, the foundation was laid for what would become AceSpace, which aims to build a bridge between tennis facilities and players.
“I was sitting there and I just started looking around to see what software facilities were using, and how people could find available courts,” he added. “I realized that something like this doesn’t exist right now, and it’s something that’s well within my skill set to be able to provide a service like this to the tennis community.”
AceSpace is an “online and mobile app designed to help tennis players locate available courts across the country. We will fill unused courts by providing facilities with a management system designed for the unique challenges tennis presents. Players see available courts and can book them through the app, saving time and easing the burden on facility staff.”
AceSpace began as an online resource, and the company will soon be launching a mobile app.
“The app will be released soon and will be free to download,” said Sabaitis, the company’s Founder and CEO. “You can also sign-up online. It’s entirely free for players to use. You can ‘favorite’ your local facilities, or search for any place you’re looking for. Simply book your court, and go play.”
The app release is another significant stepping stone in the development of AceSpace, and the brand has now grown immensely in the New York- metropolitan area, and the goal is to continue branching throughout the United States, beginning with Connecticut and Pennsylvania.
“The member clubs that work with us now have given us great feedback so far and have actually begun recommending it to their fellow club owners,” said Sabaitis. “Word of mouth has been incredibly positive, and we’re working to get some on-the-record reviews so we can continue pushing westward and show clubs how beneficial this service can be to them. During these uncertain times, we’re providing a service that, frankly, most other management systems aren’t.”
AceSpace’s growth has been a testament to the work that Sabaitis and his small team have put in over the course of the last two years.
Sabaitis was a four-year starter on the men’s tennis team at Columbia University, and after graduating in 2016, went into the finance world where he got a job in banking. While he enjoyed what he was doing, he knew he still had a passion for tennis, and wanted to do something involved with the sport he had been playing since he was four-years-old.
“I was a trader, I’m a markets guy. So I was looking at this and thought that if we can increase the number of courts being used around the city, that would be a huge boom for the tennis community,” he said. “Not only to fill those unused courts, but if we can give more people access to courts, such as kids from the inner city, who may not be able to pay the high price. Just by opening the courts gives them the option to play and that was huge for me. I want to support the tennis community, which I’ve been a part of my whole life, as much as possible.”
While he knew the industry and knew that he had a sound business plan, he still needed to put that into action. He talked to some of his friends in the tech industry as well as in the tennis industry.
“I knew I needed to talk to both of those groups because it was the intersection of what I was doing,” said Sabaitis. “My first step was to sit down with people who understood the landscape of startups and have done deals in New York, and picked their brain on a lot of different issues.
Secondly, I knew I needed to talk to tennis players. I hadn’t been a junior in more than 8 years, so I wanted to find out the challenges that these players were facing. It was a lot of talking to people, taking notes and jumping from meeting to meeting.”
But Sabaitis would not have it any other way. He left his banking job and dove full force into the tennis industry pool.
“I had this vision, and I have these opportunities. I want to take advantage of it while I’m still young,” he said, recalling telling his previous boss and co-workers that he was leaving. “It’s been tremendously exciting. There is always going to be some stress involved when starting something new and going out on your own like that. But I’ve learned so much and have met so many great people. I think it’s been a great decision on my part, and I’m very pleased with the path I’ve chosen.”
Brian Coleman is the Senior Editor for New York Tennis Magazine. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org