Tennis hub plans in play

By David Kavanagh | posted on May 16, 2019

THE City of Albany could house a state of the art regional tennis venue if plans discussed as part of an ongoing feasibility study set to be completed in June come to fruition.

The Lower Great Southern Tennis Association, the Department of Local Government, Sporting and Cultural Industries, Tennis West, four local tennis clubs and the City have been in discussions as part of the study since a consultant was hired to conduct it in October.

City Manager of Recreation Services Samantha Stevens said the study would assess the feasibility of establishing a regional tennis centre in the Great Southern to encourage growth and greater participation in the sport locally.

She said the study would consider “the medium to long-term needs of the sport in the Great Southern and recommendations for infrastructure and suitable sites”.

“Part of this process is to also consider a governance model that would work, and to measure both the economic and social value of pursuing a project like this,” Ms Stevens said.

Currently, there are four tennis clubs in Albany – the Emu Point Sporting Club, Merrifield Park Tennis Club, Lawley Park Tennis Club and the South Coast Tennis Club.

Albany differs from other major regional centres such as Bunbury, Geraldton, Busselton, and Kalgoorlie which have one large tennis facility each.

Vice President of the Lower Great Southern Tennis Association Les Bairstow said the quest to see a single regional tennis venue built in Albany had been underway for about 40 years.

“I can remember my father back in 1980 and a few people were trying to get it off the ground,” Mr Bairstow said.

“It’s been a huge amount of time for something that probably should have been built 30 years ago.”

Mr Bairstow said the study was exploring the idea of building a completely new facility in town and amalgamating existing clubs under one roof.

He said the money that would otherwise be spent renovating the various clubs in Albany could instead be used to build “an ace facility which, once built, would be the best regional venue in Australia”.

President of the Tennis Section of Emu Point Sporting Club Colin Veale said local clubs currently faced a variety of issues.

“The main issue for Lawley Park and Merrifield Park is resurfacing of their court … while this feasibility study is being undertaken, and until there’s some form of result, they have been unable to attract any funding to assist,” he said.

Mr Veale said the prevailing issue at his own club was a lack of younger tennis players.

“We have no involvement with junior tennis or junior coaching at all,” he said.

“[Tennis] is not as popular a sport as other sports … you get younger kids readily play football, soccer and maybe netball but there really hasn’t been a lot of people looking to play tennis.

“Those that do want to play have to travel a lot, particularly up to Perth, if they want to compete or access better training facilities.”

According to Mr Bairstow, a regional tennis venue in Albany could address a number of these concerns.

He said such a venue would allow Albany to host major junior and senior tournaments and events, something currently “impossible” because “you would have to send competitors in three different directions to three different clubs on three different types of surfaces”.

“There’s no floodlit tennis courts in Albany,” Mr Bairstow said.

“All the modern facilities have lights and are available until 9pm or 10pm at night, weekdays, weekends, for coaching purposes [but] we can’t open the courts up to anyone in the public that might want to play in the evenings.”

The only court with floodlights Albany players can access is in Mount Barker.

Minister for Sport and Recreation Mick Murray said while the study and consultation process was ongoing, it would be premature to consider how the construction of a regional venue would be funded.