Tennis hub needs support

By David Kavanagh | posted on June 20, 2019

PLANS to build a state-of-the-art regional tennis venue in Albany will not go ahead without the support of local clubs and the tennis community.

Mayor Dennis Wellington said the city’s four existing clubs would have to agree to share the new centre with each other and local hockey groups if the project was to receive a green light.

“At the moment Merrifield Park Tennis Club and Lawley Park Tennis Club have six courts each and do not have the room to build anymore,” he told the Weekender.

“The logic would be if they want to expand into more things for kids and state tournaments they go to a centre which would be big enough to do so.”

A feasibility study into the potential regional tennis facility in Albany has been ongoing since October and has in that time engaged a variety of stakeholders (‘Tennis hub plans in play’, 16 May).

This includes the City, the Lower Great Southern Tennis Association, the Department of Local Government, Sporting and Cultural Industries, Tennis West and Merrifield Park, Lawley Park, Emu Point and South Coast tennis clubs.

At a Future of Tennis forum at the City’s administration building on Monday night, Mr Wellington said a new facility would be big enough to support growth over “30, 40 or 50 years”.

“It’s not going to be a half-baked exercise,” he told the forum’s attendants.

Mr Wellington added that the project could take “seven to eight years” to complete and would be primarily funded by the State and Federal Government.

“There are two elections between now and then. That’s how we’re going to fund it,” he said.

“[But] the government will not fund anything in isolation. It will have to be a shared facility with tennis on one side and hockey on the other.”

City Chief Executive Officer Andrew Sharpe, who was also present at the two-hour discussion, said a shared venue would attract more people and help the business case “stack up”.

“The clubs need to make a decision about how we’re going to go forward with that. If we’ve done the due diligence with the feasibility study, you can now have input,” he said.

More than 70 tennis players, coaches and committee members from Albany and surrounding areas attended the Monday night forum, with a number of these speaking up during question time with concerns about the project.

One man pointed out that there are currently no courts in Albany with floodlights and questioned why plans for the venue were taking priority over updating existing facilities.

Graeme Hall from Tennis West Places to Play said planning for the regional venue was still in its early stages and suggested floodlights that could later be transferred to the new facility could be an option.

“There may be interim steps … we’re not saying that’s not on the table,” Mr Sharpe added.

Another concern raised by a member of the public revolved around the new site’s proposed usage and management model.

He cited page 102 of the feasibility study and asked whether the phrase “the future is casual tennis” implied existing club infrastructures would fold in favour of casual players.

Tennis West Participation Manager Brooke Koenig said catering to people who wanted to play casually or “pay as they go” was about adapting to people’s changing lifestyles.

“It doesn’t replace club memberships … we just want more avenues for participation,” she said.

“Casual play doesn’t mean a one-off play.”

According to City Acting Executive Director of Community Services Nathan Watson, the project’s Working Group last week received a range of recommendations from the feasibility study.

“Co-location of sporting facilities is the City’s preferred and most viable model for future development and the report details a number of multi-use facility options,” he said.

“The City is collating feedback on the report’s recommendations from all stakeholders [which] will determine what steps we take next.

He said if there is support to continue the process, the next step is to pursue a business case to aid in attracting funding.

The study’s consultant David Lanfear is expected to have submitted cost estimations and design options for the venue by the end of this week.