Tennis NSW is a member based and not-for-profit sporting organisation charged with growing, developing and promoting the Sport of tennis throughout NSW. As the central administrative body of tennis, it is the role of Tennis NSW to manage, coordinate, promote, and unify the diverse facets of this great sport.
Two years ago, the Board of Tennis NSW commissioned a review of its governance structures and operations by consultants KPMG.
In early 2009, the Tennis NSW also commenced a strategic planning process and throughout 2009 the organisation’s new strategic plan was crafted and subsequently released to the tennis community in early 2010, fittingly named ‘Grassroots to Grand Slam 2010 – 2015.’
One of the four key strategic directions of the plan is Facility Development.
Research tells us, and so do our stakeholders, that the standard of tennis facilities in NSW is seriously threatening the health and long term sustainability of the Sport. Action must be taken quickly to address this imbalance.
The current state of Play … when it comes to Tennis Facilities in NSW
Whilst various sport and recreation surveys suggest that Tennis remains a sport of very high interest to Australian’s and sits competitively in the nation’s Top 10 most participated sports, the lack of proper maintenance, loss of courts and absence of long-term planning has caused our tennis facilities to spiral into a state of disrepair. Left unfixed, this will have a major impact on the way tennis is consumed in the future and ultimately impact the attractiveness of our great Sport. We have to act now!
What research has been done so far?
Between July and November 2006, a National Facility Census was conducted. The census data provided some clear messages about the needs and wants of the tennis community. From a facility development point of view these included: providing a clear need for assistance and direction in upgrading tennis facilities and surroundings; developing more of a social environment within tennis facilities and introducing more relevant programs and services.
Some of the more detailed findings were as follows:
The results of this study indicate that the majority of tennis clubs around Australia neither own the land upon which they are located, or their facilities. It is clear from the results that:
Clearly, this places many tennis facilities in a rather tenuous position with regard to their long-term future at their particular location. Respondents to the survey indicated that the fragile nature of their tenure was perceived as a threat to the sustainability of tennis in their locality. It also minimises the opportunity for facility managers to invest in their facilities, through the uncertainty of their facility at the site.
Facility Maintenance and Management
The results indicate that the majority of facilities around Australia are maintained and managed by a group of dedicated volunteers. Volunteers play an important role in tennis in terms of providing services such as maintenance of facilities as well as in executive management (through their role on committees and boards). The results indicate that many tennis facilities owe their continued existence to volunteer members. Respondents to the survey noted that a threat to their sustainability was in the decline of volunteers willing to undertake core roles in the management and maintenance of tennis facilities. The development and trialling of management models that are less dependent on volunteers has been recommended.
Results indicate that the majority of facilities around Australia have undertaken some (but not many) facility redevelopment projects within the past 5 years.
Respondents in the study recognise that facilities are at the core of their business, and are appreciative of the Tennis Australia facility grants that have been allocated. Some respondents also noted the advantages in creating alliances with other facilities (non-tennis) in their area in order to have access to better facilities and more effective and efficient use of space (in terms of multi-sport complexes). With that said, the absence of appropriate capital to fund major redevelopments was an overwhelming issue for the majority of respondents.
Type of Courts
There is a wide variety of court surface types around Australia.
The majority of courts in Australia are reported to be hardcourt.
Interestingly, the lion’s share of courts in NSW tend to be synthetic grass, with more than 90% of all clubs/centres, boosting variations of this surface type.
Results indicate that tennis facilities around Australia already offer a variety of participation programs to club members and casual court-hire participants. Results also indicate that club representatives believe that more can be done to increase participation both by governing bodies, and by the clubs themselves, to attract a variety of different segments of consumers. Club representatives report that they are enthusiastic about reaching under-serviced consumer groups and providing innovative programming for them.
As indicated by the results of the study, club representatives have identified that declining numbers of volunteers is a threat to the sports sustainability.
The results indicate that tennis court usage within Australia is highly variable.
Club representatives in this study have noted an overall decline in participation in tennis, which effects court utilisation. Club representatives have identified a range of programs and target groups that might be considered to maximise court utilisation, but do not commit any funds, at least from cash reserves to do so. The results also indicate that tennis courts around Australia are used frequently to capacity at night. Results indicate that club representatives believe that installing lighting would provide an opportunity for many facilities to increase court utilisation.
Clubhouse, Amenities and Accessibility
Results indicate that the state of clubhouses around Australia is variable. Nationally, clubhouses are reported to be in average condition and clubhouses are ageing.
Consistent with previous findings, it is possible that some clubs are not spending cash reserves on facility development even though they have indicated that they are planning to. Although, as noted previously, club representatives report that they would like to increase participation and targeted programs that they offer, there are very few facilities with clubhouses and amenities that would be able to cope with different groups (such as disability groups).
State Master Plan for Facilities
With the above in mind, it has become increasingly clear, not just though research and the strategic planning process, but from regular consultation with stakeholders (Associations, Clubs, Coaches, Court Operators, Players, Parents, Local and State Government etc.), that the standard of tennis facilities in NSW is seriously threatening the health and long term sustainability of the Sport. Action must be taken to address this problem, and as a result Tennis NSW in partnership with Tennis Australia will develop a State Master Plan for Tennis Facilities in NSW.
Tennis NSW has commissioned Inside Edge Sporting and Leisure Planning to assist in the development of a state master plan for tennis facilities. The plan will map all facilities in NSW, who owns them, their state of repair, and what our future needs, might be. Five stages will be completed before a draft report is submitted to Tennis NSW for consideration. The State Master Plan will discussed in more detail in Section 5 of the Proposal.
The National Court Rebate Scheme
Tennis facilities in Australia continue to face challenges in finding the right mix between desirable court surfaces for community and player development requirements, and available financial and water resources. The court rebate scheme is one of a number of initiatives designed to address these challenges as part of an overall plan to ensure long term benefits for tennis facilities in Australia. The National Court Rebate Scheme is intended to stimulate progressive facility developments in line with the National court surface policy, Tennis 2020 National facility development and management framework for Australian tennis and a range of tennis programming, coaching and competition initiatives. The Scheme is designed to increase the number of Grand Slam court surfaces in Australia. What’s worth noting, is that tennis Australia is one of the very few national governing bodies prepared to invest their own money in facility development.
A Hierarchal approach to Facility Development
With most tennis courts residing on government land in NSW, there is a general trend of increased and significant investment required by various government sectors to maintain and upgrade courts for local communities. Rising costs of surface replacement and consumer expectation of quality tennis program services, courts, clubhouse and surrounds makes small clusters of courts increasingly difficult to manage as self-sufficient and sustainable ventures. Sustainable practice, in tennis terms, is defined as a tennis entity having the resources to consistently maintain and upgrade the asset without reliance on external support. Many existing tennis clubs, centres and associations operate in an environment of declining facility standard and service provision. These facilities require address towards change if tennis is to remain viable and relevant to government and local communities.
The Sport understands that it is now becoming more common for all levels of government to strategically plan for any community infrastructure. Increasingly, governments are adopting a hierarchy of facilities provision in order to balance regional and community needs with sustainable practices. Tennis Australia and Tennis NSW believe that a similar planned approach should be taken with tennis infrastructure across Australia in the future. It is critical to the health of tennis that a hierarchy of facilities is developed in order to meet the stated vision and objectives and to develop the sport as a whole.