St Mary's Park piloting Gate Access Technology to open up tennis in the community
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Tennis courts in St Mary’s Park in Prestwich, Bury have been buzzing with players having seen fantastic results since piloting gate access technology as part of a continuing joint initiative between Bury Council and the LTA to open tennis up to the local community.
The pilot is part of a national programme of support the LTA is delivering to drive more tennis play in parks across the country in partnership with Local Authorities. While park courts play a vital role in keeping the nation active and helping open up the sport to more people, with around 1.7million people playing on park courts in the last 12 months, research has shown that among the biggest barriers to people playing tennis in parks are poor quality facilities and not being able to easily find and book a court – and so the work being done at St. Mary’s Park is designed to help address that.
Since installing the gate access technology, which has made it easier for people to find and book a court, St Mary’s Park has seen a substantial increase in registered users up from 200 to 1,800 – an increase of 800%. There has also been a significant acceleration in court bookings – over 4,000 bookings compared to the next highest of 804 in the same period for other parks in the local authority.
Bury Council and the LTA have a long-standing partnership dating back to 2017 when the two organisations co-funded a £40k initiative to drive tennis participation at St Mary’s Park, where it was identified that interest was high, but courts were run down.
St Mary’s Park is a flourishing public space with extensive facilities including four tennis courts. As part of the pilot, the four tennis courts were rejuvenated (including resurfacing, repainting and remarking) and a Gate Access System installed. This facilitated a simple online court booking process which was promoted both in the park and online to the local community. To support this our online booking system was implemented in summer 2019.
Peak time slots at St Mary’s Park are charged at £3 per hour per court, but an annual pass costs just £20. Importantly, some courts are still free to use, subject to booking and availability.
The installation of the gate access technology has also helped to ensure the courts in the park are sustainable, and has helped to secure them for the benefit of the current and future generations of the local community. So far £6k worth of income from court bookings has been generated, which has been reinvested back into the tennis facilities and coaching programme.
Following the project’s success at St Mary’s Park, Bury Council has developed a long-term strategy and sustainable model with the LTA which will see further court refurbishment within the borough.
Paul Bennett, LTA Head of Region for the North of England, said:
"It is great to see the success of the gate access systems at St Mary’s Park. Alongside LTA Rally, it helps to overcome what we know is one of the biggest barriers people experience in wanting to play tennis in easily finding and booking a court. In Bury and other areas where we have seen gate access technology introduced, participants have found the journey to court much easier, and we have also seen significant increases in usage. We look forward to continuing our work with Bury Council to replicate the St Mary’s success in other parks across the region. The LTA’s vision is to open up tennis and its benefits to more people, and this project forms part of our nationwide facility investment strategy which is designed to do just that.”
A spokesperson for Bury Council said:
“St Mary’s Park was chosen for the pilot as LTA data showed that these tennis courts were used the most yet were in greatest need of maintenance. As a result of this joint initiative between Bury Council and the LTA, tennis has been opened up for the community through a new secure online booking process, gate technology, low-cost tennis, free coaching and local tennis leagues. We look forward to rolling out St Mary’s Park’s success to other Bury parks.”