UK Government’s & LTA transformational investment into public park tennis courts for local communities announced
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The UK Government’s investment of £22million into public tennis courts across Britain is being described as transformational for the sport. The move, together with an investment from the LTA of £8.5m, will see public park tennis courts in poor or unplayable condition brought back to life for the benefit of their local community.
Park tennis court facilities are owned by local authorities and are vital community assets that can help widen the impact of the physical and mental health benefits that being active through tennis can bring.
Sustaining and increasing participation in tennis on park courts is also key to the long term health of the sport itself and key to the joint mission of the LTA, Tennis Wales and Tennis Scotland of opening tennis up to more people. All three organisations believe tennis should be relevant, accessible, welcoming, and enjoyable to anyone, and park facilities are one of the most important ways to deliver this. On the back of Great Britain’s success at the US Open, with Emma Raducanu, Joe Salisbury, Gordon Reid and Alfie Hewett bringing home titles, this presents a unique opportunity to capitalise on the public interest in tennis and build on the legacy of the Murray family and others over recent years.
Across Britain, there are currently 1.7million adults and many more children who play tennis in a local park every year, and park tennis courts are particularly important in providing affordable, engaging and accessible opportunities for more female players and those from lower socioeconomic backgrounds, as well as being the most popular venue for women to play after they have left education. Within Wales alone, 130,000 adults picked up a racket and played during 2020 and 2021, the majority of those in public parks.
Whilst the popularity of the sport is flourishing, with yearly tennis participation growing last year despite the long periods of lockdown, there are many areas of the country where park courts remain dilapidated and unappealing. Currently across England, Wales and Scotland around 45% of park courts are categorised as being in poor, very poor or unplayable condition, preventing many from picking up a racket and getting active. Critically, half of unplayable venues are in the most socially deprived areas of the country.
Simon Johnson, CEO of Tennis Wales commented on the funding announcement
Following refurbishment, the LTA, Tennis Wales and Tennis Scotland will work with local authorities across Britain to help support them with a variety of operating models to help increase participation. This includes making it easier for people to find and book a court through the LTA’s online booking platform, LTA Rally, combined with digital gate access technology so people can turn up knowing a court is available for them to use, as well as community coaching programmes.
This approach has already been rolled out successfully for the past three years, and has demonstrated that with the right combination of programmes and coaching activity, participation in parks can increase significantly. The recently refurbished park tennis courts in Neath, South Wales have already seen participation increase since being refurbished by Sport Wales and Tennis Wales in 2020, and the tennis courts in Heath Park, Cardiff have welcomed over 1,400 players in the last 18 months.
Scott Lloyd, Chief Executive of the LTA, said:
“This programme will be transformational for public tennis facilities in Britain. Alongside the money that the LTA is putting in this additional Government investment will allow us to repair and refurbish dilapidated park courts across the country. We are also committed to ensuring that any investment is supported by sustainable community tennis programmes, so courts see a real growth in usage and local authorities can continue to invest in their courts over the long term.”