Harrogate
Tennis

Blueprint for Tennis Court Development

Background

After many years where the T&RA was reactive to any new court development initiatives, the decision was taken in 2019 to take a more proactive role with the appointment of a Director of Court Development with a brief to encourage schools, sports clubs and other institutions to consider the development of new courts.

The emphasis has been on Tennis where there is a reasonable prospect of return on investment from a well organised club with good court utilisation.

Key Requirements for Successful Developments

There are number of fundamentals which are required for a new court project to succeed, the most important of which are:

  • A well connected and driven individual to market and champion the project
  • A path to a successful fundraising which will almost certainly need to be under-pinned by a small number of large donors
  • An enthusiastic institution (supported at the top level) which will need to remain onside for the duration of the project, say 5 years
  • A suitable site where planning permission is likely to be obtained
  • A good catchment area, with 100,000 population within 30 miles 

If any of these fundamentals is not in place, it is considered that a project is unlikely to get off the ground.

Cheltenham Ladies' College
Cheltenham Ladies' College

Prioritisation

The current strategy, endorsed by the T&RA Board, is to improve the coverage for Tennis throughout the UK and to fill in the gaps. Analyses have been produced for each of the 48 counties of England as well as the major cities in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. These analyses cover the overall population, the biggest towns and cities as well as the major schools, sports clubs and universities; in addition, former Tennis courts have been identified. 

It was agreed to focus on well-populated and reasonably affluent parts of the country which are currently without a Tennis court. The top targets are:

  •  Buckinghamshire
  •  Cheshire with Merseyside
  •  Devon
  •  Derbyshire
  •  Gloucestershire
  •  Kent with East Sussex
  •  Shropshire
  •  Somerset
  •  Wiltshire
  •  Worcestershire
  •  Yorkshire
  •  Edinburgh in Scotland

A Tennis-playing and well-connected local resident has been (or hopefully soon will be) identified as Champion for each, with a brief to identify likely locations and then to carry forward the most promising of these.

UK map
Existing and Top 10 Target Counties

Ambition and Financial Consequences

The ambition is to develop at least one court in each of the counties specified including Edinburgh, although it is recognised that this is likely to take an extended period of time.

The gestation period for any new court is at least five years and, in many cases, it is likely that one would be required to fit in with the institution’s development programme which could well have academic, cultural or different sporting priorities before a Tennis project would be considered. There may be other sites which appear in counties which already have a court, and these projects will, of course, still be supported by the T&RA.

Tonbridge School
Tonbridge School
Marlborough College
Marlborough College

The T&RA Board has discussed the provision of grants up to 15% towards the total cost of new court developments in strategic priority areas (and up to 10% otherwise).

Following on from the above, the Board have set an achievable and financially affordable target of developing four new sites over the ten years up to 2030.

In addition, two new professionals will need to be recruited for each new court and, over the next ten years, it is reckoned that, with retirements and natural turnover, eight further new professionals will need to be recruited and trained.

This aspect of the T&RA’s development programme is being addressed by the Investing in Professionals initiative.

T&RA Support and Advice

The T&RA is able to draw on the experience of various members who would be happy to help and advise in one or more of the following areas:

  •  Court design
  •  Quantity surveying
  •  Construction & engineering
  •  Property matters including planning applications
  •  Fund-raising
  •  Starting and running an efficient club
  •  Employment of professional staff
  •  Achievement of charitable status
  •  Preparation of business plans
  •  Presentations to boards and/or potential investors

Conclusion

As can be seen, the T&RA has an agreed, strategic ambition and realistic targets to develop new courts in order to grow the game of Real Tennis.

Using a conservative 250 new players per court, this programme would produce an increase of 1000 or, in other words, a 20% uplift in the number of active players within the ten-year period.

Please address any issues or questions arising from the above to Richard Dalzell at richard.a.dalzell@gmail.com.

Richard Dalzell, June 2021

The Tennis and Rackets Association is grateful for the sponsorship and support of:

Logo - Tennis and Rackets
Lead Sponsor for Tennis
Logo - Brown Advisory
Lead Sponsor for Rackets