The council has announced what it calls an “exciting” £500,000 refurbishment project for the borough’s tennis courts – while trying to hide the fact that what have previously been free facilities will now become pay-to-play.
Cash-strapped Croydon isn’t even offering to organise any coaching at the refurbed courts, though it is, together with operators Greenwich Leisure, asking residents to come forward to act as volunteer tennis trainers.
The bulk of the money for the refurb works is coming from the Lawn Tennis Association, one of the country’s wealthiest sports bodies, thanks to their profiteering at Wimbledon each summer. They are notorious for failing to convert that cash into dynamic, new tennis talents taking up the game, though, mainly due to the paucity of facilities and lack of coaching at grass-roots and junior levels.
In case that point needed emphasising, when a private members’ sports club in Purley upgraded its tennis facilities, they spent five times as much on the refurb at one venue as is being spent across the 32 council-owned tennis courts.
Government money is also involved in the nationwide Park Tennis Project, while Croydon is “investing” (their choice of word) £54,300 “after bidding for capital funding”.
The council announcement refers to upgrades of “all the borough’s courts”, which will “have a new gate-access system to keep them secure and to deter antisocial behaviour”. The kind of thing that can be deterred if GLL employed staff to monitor and maintain the facilities…
“Players will be able to book sessions in advance,” the council said, burying in the official press release this little weasel phrase: “A small charge will be introduced, which will be re-invested to maintain the new courts for everyone to enjoy.”
Operators GLL are already charging up to £8.10 per session for courts booked at what they call their “key tennis hubs”: Addiscombe Recreation Ground, Ashburton Park and Biggin Wood.
On their website, GLL says that at the 11 other venues, “The booking system will help ensure that users will be able to reserve a court at their chosen time.” Which is nice…
The council says it is working “to ensure free tennis sessions are available each week for people of all ages and playing levels. Equipment will also be provided for these sessions so that the sport can be accessible to all…
“The new facilities will enable more people to take up tennis, helping to improve physical and mental wellbeing.”
Jason Perry, the borough’s piss-poor Mayor, doesn’t look like he is a regular player of tennis, even thought there are a set of courts in Lloyd Park, just across the road from his £1million home. The Lloyd Park tennis courts are unmentioned in the council release.
Perry pontificated, “Tennis is a great way to enjoy sport and get some exercise while spending time with friends or family – a double boost for our health and wellbeing.”
The tennis courts being renovated are at: Addiscombe Recreation Ground, Ashburton Park, Biggin Woods, Coulsdon Memorial Ground, Grangewood Park, Park Hill Recreation Ground, Purley Beeches, Rickman Hill Recreation Ground, Shirley Church Recreation Ground, South Norwood Lake and Grounds, South Norwood Recreation Ground, Trumble Gardens, Upper Norwood Recreation Ground and Wandle Park.
The refurbishment works are due to begin this month. Addiscombe Rec, Ashburton Park and Biggin Woods will remain open during refurbishments.
The council also invited people to email GLL “to register your interest in supporting GLL to deliver… the community coaching programme”.
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