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December 17, 2013 06:45 PM

Fred_Hultberg_002_(2)When you interview Fred Hultberg, you need much more than 60 seconds.
Try 60 hours.
Fred, you must understand, was vaccinated with a phonograph needle. On and on,
and round and round he goes.
 There is no such thing as a chat with Fred. There’s chatter, weeks of it, in fact.
 If you ask Fred the date, he’s liable to start telling about the time he ate a box of dates.
I can say all this because for four decades I have listened to—and most of the time enjoyed—Fred yak and yak and yak.
Fred, 70, came onto the Albuquerque tennis scene in the late 1980s. His title has changed over the years, but now it’s Recreation Program and Facilities Manager for Albuquerque Parks and Recreation. After December 31, 2013, Fred won’t have a title. That’s when he’s retiring.
He’ll still be around the Jerry Cline Recreation and Tennis Center, of course, popping in to help out on such things as the New Mexico Games. Maybe he’ll even hit a tennis ball or three, something he hasn’t had time to do much in the last few years.

When did you actually start working for the city?

In 1987, I began in a trailer at Los Altos Park.  The next year we moved to the Albuquerque Tennis Complex where the city had set up its Sports Office. I had to run soccer programs, Little League, flag football, softball, basketball. People don’t realize that tennis has always been only a third of my job.  

Were you in charge at the Sports Office?

When I came there, Roger Knight, a retired Army airborne colonel, was running tennis and league play. There were about eight desks in there. This old guy sat at one desk. He’d type on a1930-model typewriter and fall asleep as he did. Before Roger was there, Bill Taylor and Pat Kaplan independently leased the Complex. They ran it for a long time.  

Did you have someone helping you with tennis?

Soon after I got there, Curtis Krzykowski came aboard. He came to us from the Lobo Club. Everybody knew Curtis and everybody knows him at the Jerry Cline.  

When I think of the courts at the Complex, all I remember are the struggles with deterioration.

When we arrived at the Complex, the courts weren’t in bad shape. We went about five to seven years before we had to surface them as again. But then, every three or four years after that we had to resurface.  The cracks were so big we had to close three courts at the back east end.   
The Complex reached its zenith when it was home for the Virginia Slims in the early 1990s. Were you involved in that?

Oh, yeah. You can’t imagine how big an event that was.  The Slims was a women’s pro tour in 1990 and ’91.  The Slims took over the main building at the Complex. They brought in furniture for the women players and made it look unbelievably modern for that one week of play. The city added plants and everyone said how great the Complex looked.  

What did you do at the Slims?

I was the janitor. I would get up every morning at 5:30 and sweep the blowing sand off the courts, then wash and dry the courts.   We only used a few courts for that tournament.

What other tennis duties did you have at Complex?

I was in charge of NJTL.  Curtis ran a lot of the leagues and the other things.  

I recall playing doubles with you at the Complex several times. Who taught you to play?

I never had any lessons.  I took up tennis in about 1988.  I had been a baseball player in high school.  I started out a 3.5 and was a 4.0 from then on.

What players were around the Complex then?  

Paul Jew and Tom Hackstrom were on my teams.  Tommy Jewell was there, always playing with his buddies, Dan Smith and Ray Hamilton.  Mike Guest was there. Gosh, there were so many more. My teams would always battle with Highpoint teams. We’d go to Phoenix and El Paso for tournaments.  I was on a 4.0 team for years and years.

Anything you want to forget?

We had two fellows who died on the way to the hospital after playing tennis at the Complex. I knew them both. They had heart attacks.

I recall the Complex as being very busy in the 1990s.

It was.  We had a lot of tournaments there, including the state high school championships.   But our USTA leagues began to fall off, because tennis was growing in other parts of the city.  Dick Gorman started drop-in tennis at the Complex. He started Grand Prix program too there. The Grand Prix was much bigger in the old days.

What happened to the Complex?

You could see things there dwindling.  When Tanoan opened and Highpoint concentrated on tennis, that took a lot of players from us. So did Sierra Vista West. We never had lights at the Complex, and Highpoint and Tanoan had lights. The constant cracking of the courts hurt us. After a while, people didn’t want to come to the Complex. The courts were getting lousy.  And for a lot of people it was a long drive from the other side of town.   

When did the Complex actually die?

I believe it was 2006.  On a Monday morning before Easter I was told by the city that everything at the Complex had to be cleaned out in one week. The city was going to build a BMX track there. There were also plans to later add a velodrome, which never happened.  We loaded up two long boxcars of stuff in the parking lot and a lot of junk went to the dump.  We moved everything to the Jerry Cline. We had a portable building hauled in there that had been used by the Erna Fergusson Library, while it was being remodeled.

What was Jerry Cline like when you arrived?  

They had 12 courts when it opened, in the early 1980s, and a shack that was only used during lessons. The place was primitive even after we moved there.  Now we have 18 courts, 13 courts lighted and a backboard.  We do 10 times more business than the Complex ever did. This was the greatest move—to the middle of town. Drop-in tennis really helped us and still does. We added a three-quarter-mile track for jogging or walking around the courts and the adjoining park.    

The new building was long in coming, wasn’t it?

A lot of people thought it would never be built.  Originally it was going to be a two-story building. But the cost would be so high because of the elevator. Every year the city said, We’re gonna do it, We’re gonna do it. We had to deal with the city and with the neighborhood. It took six, almost seven years. We’re much bigger than Phoenix and Tucson and El Paso in regard to league play. Tons of league matches are played at Jerry Cline. People love to play here now. When we officially opened in March 2013, that was truly a glorious day.  This has to be one of the nicest parks and recreation facilities in the country.  The USTA named it the best tennis center in the Southwest this past year.  It’s a helluva place.

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