Tennis courts at three Preston parks could net free refurb from sport's governing body
Public tennis courts on three Preston parks could be set for a makeover to attract more players to the sport.
The Lawn Tennis Association (LTA) is offering to apply for funding on behalf of the city council to improve the facilities at Moor Park, Haslam Park and Ashton Park.
All three sites are in need of refurbishment and Town Hall bosses have been told the work, costing around £150,000, could be paid for from an LTA fund if the local authority agrees to a new system of managing the courts using an electronic gate entry system to combat misuse and vandalism.
The council's cabinet will be asked to approve the application for grants when it meets next week.
If successful the improvements will not cost Preston a penny, although the authority will have to pay an annual charge to cover maintenance of the entry gates at each site - at a total cost of £1,800.
The city council says it has been working with the LTA for several years on a scheme to improve access to tennis in Preston.
As far back as 2012 the LTA commissioned a report on council-owned tennis facilities which found resurfacing, court marking, net upgrading and lighting improvements were needed to "increase public participation and improve the playing experience" in the sport.
Another survey in 2019 by the Central Lancashire Play Pitch Strategy (PPS) also identified problems with the courts.
A report to be considered by cabinet next Wednesday says: "The courts at Moor Park, Haslam and Ashton Parks in Preston have been identified as locations where latent demand is high and is at a level at which the LTA are keen to develop the sites by providing investment and a sustainable operating model."
Moor Park, which has six tennis courts at its St Thomas's Road site, is classed as in poor condition and in need of "major refurbishment." Four of its courts have metal nets, while the other two have none.
"The surfaces have failed or are failing, and the fencing is damaged and difficult to maintain to a safe standard. The site also attracts anti-social behaviour which may be linked to its lack of use for sport," says the report.
A small multi-use games area could also be remarked to provide two junior courts without nets.
The sites at Haslam Park (three courts) and Ashton Park (two courts) are deemed to be in a "standard" condition, but would benefit from some smaller scale investment.
The LTA says £100,000 needs to be spent on Moor Park to bring its tennis facilities up to scratch, while Haslam and Ashton Parks each need only £25,000.
"These three sites have been identified as the sites in Council ownership with the most potential to benefit from investment and the implementation of a new sustainable operating model," says the report.
Under the agreement the sites would all remain within the ownership and maintenance of the council, although the LTA would arrange for a company to manage them.
A condition to receiving this funding is that a new management system would have to be implemented.
This would involve a gate entry system being installed at the three sites and players will need to book online and pay for court hire. A pass code or QR code would be required to open the gate.
Hourly fees for using the courts will be reviewed every 12 months. It is envisaged that the courts would be free between 7am and 3pm on Monday to Friday and cost £2 per hour between 3pm and 10pm weekdays and 7am to 10pm at weekends.
The tennis courts at another part of Moor Park - located in the multi-use games area near to the observatory - and also the Frenchwood Recreation Ground will remain free and accessible at all times.