Tennis members expressed enthusiasm last week when they were shown where we are at with the courts conversion project. The slides presented can be viewed here.
The clubhouse meeting was billed as an opportunity to find out exactly what the project team have been up to and, just as importantly, for members to ask their own questions.
Ruth Samuels and Richard Sibbett provided a commentary to a series of slides demonstrating how far we have travelled along the road to converting the grass courts into five all weather courts, and installing five sets of floodlights. Notably, Richard and Ruth were keen to explain why we were opting for artificial clay.
The answer was a great deal of the way with fundraising outstripping expectations and the planning process, tendering and due diligence largely completed. Much of the heavy lifting has been done. It will shortly be time to invite construction which even the most pessimistic prediction suggests should be completed by the summer next year.
Many members - there were 35 in the closed off bar section - expressed their support for the project which, the project team suggested, will transform the fortunes of the club. Two attendees, Graham Nicholson and Gareth Roberts, suggested that some grass should be kept - perhaps the courts on the top tier. It was explained that the top tier is a crucial part of the whole project offering two all-weather courts ready for play all year round where coaches could operate two squads in tandem and also offer private coaching at peak times. It will be an important part of the tennis section’s increased revenue required to meet our repayment targets. Gareth acknowledged that he may be a “voice in the wilderness”.
Just before the close of the meeting Mike Wildig asked the general assembly whether the courts project now received the general support of the tennis membership. It is fair to say he was answered in the affirmative with Harry Gaynon repeatedly shouting: “It’s a no-brainer”.
Richard told the membership about the “exciting” project which will have a huge impact on the club. He suggested that the artificial clay courts will soon become the automatic courts of choice.
At the heart of his message was the refrain that we are a premium club whose members deserve the very best. At the same time we also need to modernise and refresh our offer to attract new members.
The question of maintenance of the new courts was raised because members will be required to drag them after use. Richard, supported by Grahame Codd, suggested that these duties are not onerous and will swiftly become a part of our court culture.
Graham Nicholson gave an impassioned plea to save some grass and asked for reassurance that there is enough demand for all five courts. He spoke of “white elephants”. Ruth agreed that there are times when not all courts will be in use but during peak times many players, not least families, are put off from coming down. Jon Harari said that it was simply not viable for a club with so many members to have courts which are only playable 50 days of the year. He said: “Won’t it be great to come down here and you don’t have to worry about getting onto a court? That is what we are trying to do”.
Paul Coxson asked whether we can afford this project and answered his own question emphatically with “yes, we can”. He said the members had thrown their support behind converting the grass courts when they were asked ten years ago but, for a variety of reasons, the project was stalled.
He said: “We delayed for various reasons but we now have everything in place. We have the funds in place. It is low risk. It is now the most sensible thing to do”.