THE ENTIRE Midlands’ tennis community is set to benefit from an announcement by The Lawn Tennis Association (LTA) of the biggest ever grassroots investment in the sport.
The Transforming British Tennis Together initiative aims to make courts across the country more useable and accessible to everyone over the next ten years.
The £250m transformation of Britain’s tennis courts comes at a time of huge momentum in elite British tennis and unprecedented levels of interest and pride in the sport, which together have inspired many more people to pick up a racket.
The LTA has committed to investing £125 million to improve community tennis facilities across the country, and plans to unlock a further £125 million through match funding from community networks with a shared vision for growing the game.
Now, the organisation is encouraging communities to work together on strong, joined up bids which will enable them to bring tennis to a wider audience.
The funding will ensure that some of the key barriers to playing tennis are overcome.
Currently, only 11 per cent of courts in Birmingham are covered, while across the midlands, only 14 per cent of park courts have lights.
The regional average population per indoor court across the midlands is 45,000.
Furthermore, booking and gaining access to a court too often relies on old, analogue systems, making it difficult to organise a game.
There is unmet demand for tennis in Birmingham and the midlands.
A recent LTA survey found that 20.1 per cent of people in Birmingham and the midlands are interested in playing the game. Improving facilities and making them more accessible and useable is seen as key to meeting that demand and increasing participation.
Transforming British Tennis Together will see the LTA work in partnership with local communities in Birmingham and the midlands to:
* Double the number of covered and floodlit courts to increase available playing hours when it’s raining and when the sun has gone down.
* Install online booking and entry systems so everyone can book a tennis court easily from their mobile phone, computer or tablet
* Refurbish courts, clubhouses and other social spaces to ensure players have a great experience every time they visit; · Support other innovative and creative ideas that meet local demand.
By working with communities across Britain with a real passion for tennis, the LTA aims to deliver 1,500 newly covered indoor courts, over 8,000 newly floodlit courts and nearly 3,000 court entry systems across the country over the next decade.
At present, only a handful of courts in Birmingham and the midlands have online booking and access systems with less than 1 per cent across the region offering such a facility.
Details of the initiative were revealed at Cannon Hill Park in Birmingham, which recently benefited from improvements funded by the LTA, Birmingham City Council and Sport England.
The improvements, which included six refurbished courts, fencing and floodlights, has seen usage increase as a consequence, with over 3,000 players using the facilities since completion.
Claire Brown, LTA Head of Midland Region said: “This is an amazing and transformational opportunity for tennis in the midlands. More and more people are enjoying the sport and there is a real appetite for the improvement and regeneration of local courts. “There has never been a better time for tennis to increase its number of participants and this investment from the LTA plus further support from partner organisations is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to transform our local tennis facilities and get more people playing.”
The LTA is now calling on tennis clubs, parks, local government, volunteers, coaches and businesses across Birmingham and the Midlands to come together and register their interest in bidding for the funds to transform their local tennis courts. For more information visit www.lta.org.uk/TBTT