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Parks Tennis Project: Over 1,500 refurbished courts that are opening up tennis across Britain

• 4 MINUTE READ

The LTA has transformed over 1,500 tennis courts across Great Britain so far as part of a £30million investment by the UK Government and LTA Tennis Foundation.

LTA COO Julie Porter reflects on an unprecedented year and looks at how we are working with partners across Britain to complete the investment into thousands of courts and welcome more people onto park courts.
 

Earlier this year I provided an update on how, with the support of the UK Government,  we’re transforming park tennis across Great Britain, bringing run down tennis courts back to life in partnership with hundreds of local authorities, and putting courts on our online platform – ensuring people can easily find, book and get on court with assurance that it will be available when they get there.

We’ve made huge progress this year. Despite one of the wettest summers on record – creating significant challenges across our nationwide network of contractors – we are proud to have transformed over 1,500 courts so far, bringing them back to a high standard for the enjoyment of local communities up and down the country.

We are on course to complete the project by the end of summer 2024, and it’s a credit to all of our partners and the LTA staff across the country who are delivering this project that we have come so far, so quickly, and I am extremely proud of everyone involved.

But in many ways, we are only getting started. Ensuring communities have access to high quality local facilities is only part of the job if we are to get 500,000 – 1,000,000 more people playing tennis in parks every year. And I wanted to end the year not just by reflecting on our successes in 2023, but also what more we need to do to welcome more players onto parks.

To do so let’s first go back to the start, and the context of 45% of park courts across Britain falling into a ‘poor’ or ‘unplayable’ condition. This is why the £30million funding package by the UK Government and LTA Tennis Foundation has been so important and we’ve ensured that over half of the total projects are in IMD decile areas 1-5, so funds are going where they are needed most.

The decision on whether to charge for court use is one for local authorities, but at a time when household budgets are being stretched more than ever, it’s great that many refurbished parks local authorities have introduced concessionary pricing and accessible annual passes to keep costs as low as possible.

This includes places like Kingswood Park in Manchester, which the Lexus Davis Cup Team visited in September ahead of wins against Australia, Switzerland and France, in order to increase the profile of the courts in a community where the potential to grow the game is high.

Although fully refurbished courts only began to relaunch in earnest in May, many are already busy, bustling spaces with local programmes and initiatives that engage local people.

In Blaenau Gwent, Six Bells Park has had over 1,000 hours of bookings in addition to a range of free tennis activity that has engaged local people. With people like former Wimbledon over-55 doubles champion – Chris Hill operating and coaching on the courts it’s no wonder there’s now a “real buzz” for tennis in this Valley (his words!). Local operators will be in place across all refurbished parks, and we’re on course for over 250 coaches to be in place across parks by Spring, 2024.

The Newlands Park Community Tennis Centre, which operate refurbished courts in South Glasgow are running a wide variety of programmes to ensure their courts are welcoming for everyone. This includes weekly tailored sessions for families, LGBTQ+ groups, the Glasgow Association for Mental Health, children with Special Educational Needs and much more. It’s a tribute to their inspiring work that Judy Murray OBE officially opened, and ran a wonderful coaching session, on the courts earlier this year.

With an eye to future, it’s great is that these courts are being run sustainably, combining free and low cost play in order to create a sinking fund so that the courts can be refurbished when inevitably required again about ten years from now, and maintained for generations to come.

Meanwhile through Local Tennis Leagues there is now a way for everybody, whatever their tennis playing level, to access friendly, flexible and social opportunities to play competitively. Our leagues use players’ ITF World Tennis Number to match them to opponents of their playing standard. At its heart these leagues are designed to help players meet new people, get familiar with local tennis facilities and enable to them work on their game and enjoy the mental and physical benefits of being active.

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Free Park Tennis is another way in which we are aiming to open up tennis and get more people into tennis, and playing at their local park. These are free, weekly tennis sessions delivered on Saturday or Sunday mornings at 10am delivered by local volunteers – we call them Activators – which remove the main barriers to entry as participants have people to play with and equipment is provided.

These are already running in parks across England, Scotland and Wales and being administered by some of the 350 trained volunteer Activators so far. For a programme that’s only just starting, the response has been great, the feedback we’ve gotten is really positive, and we know that more people will want to play when the weather improves.

You will be hearing much more about Free Park Tennis and a range of other participation programmes designed to get tennis rackets in more people’s hands in 2024. The goal is to open up tennis and inspire a new generation of people playing this wonderful sport. Watch this space.

But until then, head to LTA Play Tennis to find an opportunity to place tennis near you.

Have a happy holidays!

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