DECEMBER 2017 – UPDATE
Tennis members at AEEC can celebrate a wonderful early Christmas present - we have reached the fundraising target we set ourselves to convert our grass courts to floodlit all-weather artificial clay.
This means that the tennis club, which is such a valued part of our lives, is about to enter a new and rich phase of its life. We are confident that next year players will be able to choose between two surfaces, enjoy more courts to choose from, and play under floodlights every night of the year.
Some time next year - we hope earlier rather than later - construction will start on the five new courts and the state-of-the-art floodlights on five more. It is a remarkable achievement that befits a club with high ambitions to become the go-to place for performance coaching and social tennis in the county.
When we last addressed the membership we put it in terms of the striving tennis player who had done the heavy lifting and just needed to hold their nerve and serve out for the match. This was achieved with the help of all those who have been so generous with their money in the form of donations and benches and in time and expertise with the Spring Ball and many other fundraising events.
At that time we said we needed a good, strong push to haul us over the line. With many generous donations in recent weeks we have managed to achieve our ambitious fundraising target. It was a very generous donor who wishes to remain anonymous, who finally took us over the line and for that we are extremely grateful.
The donation brings the amount of money we have raised ourselves to £119,775. This is enough from a financial point of view to trigger the pre-construction planning phase in terms of making final choices about surface and lighting and moving to the tender stage. First we need to finalise our contract with the LTA and to confirm the required bank loans. We are well underway with these activities.
At this point we are expecting that members will be able to play on the new courts sometime next season. Please bear with us, we will move as swiftly as prudence dictates.
The conversion project represents a long term investment. The more we raise ourselves now, the less money we will have to borrow and pay down over time. We have raised almost £120,000 and secured grants from various sources - thank you LTA and Cheshire LTA - of £32,000 but we have always factored in necessary loans. They are considerable but we believe they are more than manageable. We will be having to pay back these loans over the next 15 years.
It has been the constant refrain among the conversion committee that we do not want to saddle the tennis section and future volunteer administrators with heavy debts. We promise that we will do our best and continue to strive to keep this figure as low as possible. We will only proceed when we believe it safe to do so.
At the moment we are looking at taking out loans between £188,000 and £218,000. Our relationship with the San Carlo restaurant chain and the promise of a Spring Ball and ladies lunch next year coupled with increased receipts from coaching and floodlit tennis will go a long way towards meeting the repayment schedule but once again we need your money, time and genius. The fundraising goes on.
We are now launching a second wave search for sponsors to put their names to both new and old courts. This, we feel, is a chance for local businesses to place their brand before potential customers. If you are interested in sponsoring or know anyone who may be, then please contact Ruth Samuels (firstname.lastname@example.org or 07850 413863).
We need to reassure those who run the club that our ambitions are financially sound as well as realisable. This is the chance for Alderley Edge businesses to put their names before members and visitors on a daily basis. It is an opportunity to be creative.
Meanwhile we would love members to buy a bench for a loved one, make a donation or host a fundraising event. Donation forms are in the club house. If you would like to host an event, please contact Ruth. If you would like to buy a bench, then go to Heather Coxson as the first port of call.
We need these new facilities. We recently carried out a survey of peer tennis club and discovered that we have fewer floodlit courts compared with other clubs. The conversion project will go some way towards addressing this paucity.
These floodlights are vital to meet our ambitions. We need the new courts which, we feel sure, will instantly become the members’ favourites. We have a wonderful club which is rightly an important part of our lives but we need to keep moving forward to try to be the very best we can.
There have been many queries in the past months about what kind of lighting and court surface we will finally choose. We hope to bring you masterclasses on both subjects in the newsletter early in the New Year.
For the moment it is fair to say that the artificial clay courts we are contemplating basically use a similar carpet to artificial grass but the carpet is covered by 2mm of a specially designed coloured infill which allows play much like traditional clay.
Let us reflect for a moment on what we are about to achieve. The grass courts, which have largely been redundant for the past few years, are about to be brought back to life. It will bring the excitement of tennis on a new surface, something badly needed, and play on every evening up to 9 or 9.30pm on eight courts all year around.
That will be hugely exciting for existing members, transform our coaching offer both for juniors and seniors and make the club instantly more attractive to new members.
Given a fair wind and the continued generosity of members we can look forward to a marvellous New Year with the new courts available for play earlier rather than later. 2018 is already looking like a great year.