Tennis courts net £150k refurb to encourage more Preston folk to love the game
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Facilities at Moor Park, Haslam Park and Ashton Park will be spruced up by the start of April with government cash secured by the Lawn Tennis Association (LTA). As a condition of the funding, all three will have a new electronic gate access system to combat misuse and vandalism and make sure only authorised players are able to use the courts.
A total of £150,000 will be spent on bringing the facilities up to scratch - £100,000 of that resurfacing the six courts at Moor Park and improving the fencing. Haslam Park's three courts will be treated and repainted, as will the two at Ashton Park.
Preston City Council's cabinet is expected to give formal approval to the scheme on Wednesday. The LTA will appoint someone to manage the access and booking system, while the council will find a contractor to manage all three facilities. A tender process is already underway to get someone in place as soon as possible, with the newly-refurbished courts due to be open to the public by the beginning of April.
A report to the cabinet says the council's parks and streetscenes services have been working in partnership with the LTA "to improve access to tennis in Preston." The council approved an LTA application to the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport for funding last January, together with a new court access system.
It is estimated that the minimum income from the three tennis facilities should be £8,800 - the equivalent of £800 a year for each of the 11 courts. The money will be set aside for routine maintenance and repairs, with the LTA saying the courts should be resurfaced and refurbished again in 15 years time.
As part of the plan to encourage more people to swing a racquet in the city, some sessions on the courts will be free of charge. All three facilities will not charge between 7am and 3pm on Monday to Friday. Sessions between 3pm and 10pm during the week and all day at weekends will be charged at £4 an hour. The LTA recommended £6 an hour, but Preston Council decided on £4, saying it represented "good value for money for what could be a team game for up to four people."
With the new gate entry system, players will need to book the courts at all three sites online to be given an access code to get in. The council-owned tennis courts on the Moor Park multi use games area (MUGA), near to the observatory, and also Frenchwood Recreation Ground, will remain free at all times.
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.