Although she was practically raised on the grounds of the Tennis Club of Santa Barbara, Amber Bottelsen never planned to take over the reins of the facility tucked away in Mission Canyon.
At the urging of Sambo’s founder Sam Battistone, Bottelsen’s father, Harvey, opened the club back in 1971, aiming to create a home for the highest level of tennis in Santa Barbara. As fate would have it, Bottelsen this month celebrates her fourth year as manager and co-owner of the club, in partnership with her father and her brother.
“It wasn’t something I had ever planned to do,” admitted the petite blonde, smiling at the irony. “It took me completely by surprise. The club had been for sale because my dad was just sort of done. (His attitude was) I created this and I’m done with the headache and the managing, and he wasn’t able to enjoy it.
“Somehow it didn’t sell when it got listed and we got to thinking, what if I came and in and took things over. It just sort of came together.”
“We put some of our money together and bought into the business,” Bottelsen said. “It’s worked out great.”
Born and raised in Santa Barbara and a graduate of UCSB and later Pacifica Graduate Institute, Bottelsen has traveled extensively throughout Europe, Indonesia and the Philippines, and has lived in Canada, India and the Netherlands. She moved back to Santa Barbara nine years ago and, for the last four, she’s been back home at the Tennis Club, where family and many friends “from way back” factor prominently in her life.
“I’m pretty social and I have a pretty social life, almost too much sometimes,” she said.
Since taking over the club at 2375 Foothill Road, Bottelsen and her brother have done a lot of work on the 12-acre property.
“It needed a lot of work to get it ready for the next 40 years,” she explained. “Basically, for the last three years we have been touching every surface.”
They added a fitness center, reconditioned the tennis courts, and redid the deck, the parking lot, the front entrance and a lot of the landscaping. They also added a yoga and Pilates room and brought in Nu Catering to run the club restaurant, with chef Koji Nomura, former owner of Rocks and Piranha restaurants, at the helm.
“The food is incredible,” said Bottelsen. “You can get California rolls, blackened salmon salads.
“There’s even an Amber salad, which is really popular,” she laughed.
In addition, the Bottelsens added a lot of social events to the calendar, including pool parties, Ping-Pong and basketball tournaments, chocolate tastings and the very popular 2nd Fridays Art @SBTC. Curated by respected assemblage artist Susan Tibbles, these monthly art exhibitions showcase a variety of local artists, with John Iwerks, Blakeney Sanford, Dug Uyesaka, Chris Chapman and Phoebe Brunner among those who have shown their work in the past.
“We’re trying to have more reasons for people to come to the club,” said Bottelsen, who likes to run, do yoga and exercise as much as she can. “It seems to be working.”
There are a lot of reasons for people to come and hang out now, she says, even for some of the older members who no long play tennis.
“They can stay and have a nice lunch or use the gym or swim,” she said. “Our pool is kept to 82 (degrees) and we have a big outdoor kitchen you can reserve and have barbecues.
“And then we have the kids play area. We’re trying to cater to the whole family. We do have a whole new contingent of families and they all know each other. It’s becoming a place to hang out for the next generation.”
Keeping it in the family, Bottelsen’s 16-year-old son, Avery Chernin, also spends a lot of time at the club, even working there part time “for gas money.” Avery plays on the Santa Barbara High School tennis team, like his mom did (his grandfather played at San Marcos High), but “he’s way better than I ever was,” she added.
As a busy single parent running a family business, Bottelsen has plenty on her plate, but two days a week she also has a private practice in hypnotherapy, State of Mind Hypnosis. Before becoming club manager, she was a full-time hypnotherapist, a profession she describes as both very rewarding and very exhausting.
“I love it and it’s a great thing and something I’m really good at,” she laughed, “So I feel like I have to keep doing it for the benefit of other people. But I enjoy it, too. If I have a really great session it’s such a high; it’s like wow I love this.”
Also adding balance to her life is a new hobby: documentary filmmaking, through a class at SBCC.
“I just got an A on my midterm,” she laughed. “I’m so happy.”
Click here for more information on the Tennis Club of Santa Barbara, or call 805.682.4722.