Sheffield City Council, in partnership with the Lawn Tennis Association, has reached a long term agreement with Parks Tennis CIC to secure the future of parks tennis in Sheffield.
Parks Tennis, a community interest company, will manage nine sites across Sheffield, with an online court booking system and tennis programmes at the different sites. The court booking system has recently gone live at four new sites which include Graves Park, Thorncliffe, Forge Valley School and Westfield School. This is in addition to the five existing sites which are Concord, High Hazels, Hillsborough, Millhouses and Weston Park.
Parks Tennis CIC emerged from a rigorous tendering process to secure the long term agreement. This follows an 18-month pilot programme in Sheffield which has seen over 18,000 court bookings by over 2,000 unique customers.
Parks tennis in Sheffield had appeared to be in terminal decline following years of under investment and reductions in staffing in parks which had resulted in the loss of many parks tennis courts. However, Sheffield City Council and the LTA started working together in 2014 and this has resulted in a capital investment programme that has so far seen £251,000 spent on five park sites and 22 tennis courts refurbished. In the context of £350 million of savings by Sheffield City Council over the last five years, they represent a significant commitment by the council to parks tennis.
An important element of the new agreement is that court bookings will generate a regular income stream that will be used to pay for the on-going maintenance and refurbishment of parks courts. Low cost coaching sessions will be delivered across the parks network to ensure that tennis remains accessible to all sections of the community.
Two refurbishment projects are also now nearing completion at Graves Park and Millhouses Park. This has involved resurfacing five courts at Graves and six courts at Millhouses. Funding was provided by Sheffield City Council and the LTA and the courts will shortly be repainted which will complete the refurbishment. A further funding application has been submitted to resurface 2 courts at Bingham Park.
Jeff Hunter, Managing Director of Parks Tennis CIC commented “We are delighted to have been awarded the contract to manage parks tennis in Sheffield. The city has a proud tradition for tennis and we will work tirelessly to build on the great start to regenerating tennis in the parks and ensure that there is an affordable range of tennis playing opportunities for the people of Sheffield”.
Paul Sheard, LTA Regional Tennis Participation Manager added “Sheffield has been at the forefront of regenerating community tennis and Parks Tennis CIC have played a key role in this. Without a new approach, parks tennis would eventually have ceased to exist in Sheffield and we are very pleased that we now put a long term agreement that will help safeguard the future of parks tennis in Sheffield for future generations”.