Former British number one and world number four player Greg Rusedski launched a new era for tennis in Portsmouth as he officially opened the new £1.3m facilities at Portsmouth Tennis Centre.
Managed by Parkwood Leisure on behalf of Portsmouth City Council, the centre was funded by £834,387 from the Lawn Tennis Association and £332,824 from council funds. The funding forms part of the LTA’s participation strategy to get more people playing tennis more often.
Work began in June 2013 and the four new indoor courts and six outdoor floodlit courts were fully operational by November.
January’s opening by the Lord Mayor of Portsmouth councillor Lynne Stagg saw more than 500 people descend on the centre to take advantage of free tennis sessions.
Parkwood Leisure’s director of tennis, Rob Ellis, said: “We’re proud to be associated with this flagship facility and based on the overwhelmingly positive response so far, there’s no doubt it will prove to be a real asset to the community.
“As well as putting together an exciting and varied programme, we’ve brought in a great coaching team headed up by Ashley Neaves and we’re looking forward to welcoming tennis players of all ages and abilities over the coming months.”
Parkwood Leisure’s comprehensive activities programme includes junior sessions to develop children's enjoyment of tennis through fun activities based on balance, co-ordination, agility, movement and racket and ball skills, while teen tennis will focus on developing skills for young people aged between 11 and 16.
Adult activities include fun cardio sessions set to music, plus Tennis Xpress coaching sessions for beginners and intermediates, covering key techniques and tactics. Alternatively, people can simply pay and play.
Speaking at the opening, Greg Rusedski said: “It was fantastic to meet so many enthusiastic players and find out more about the programmes which are being developed. With this great new facility, I’m sure tennis in the area will go from strength to strength as it will mean so much more court time for players especially during the winter months when the weather isn’t exactly conducive to playing outdoors.”
Greg was joined at the unveiling of the new facility by the Lawn Tennis Association (LTA) chief executive Michael Downey and Councillor Lee Hunt Portsmouth City Council's cabinet member for culture, leisure and sport.
Mr Downey said: “I’m so pleased that my first visit as the new LTA CEO should be to Portsmouth, because I’ve been able to see for myself the power of partnerships, and the impact they can have on developing a thriving tennis programme in the city.”
Councillor Hunt said more and more people in Portsmouth were getting involved in tennis, adding: "It’s a really exciting time for British and Portsmouth tennis and by working with British tennis and city partners our city council is helping to create facilities which rank amongst some of the best for grassroots players in the UK. We're hoping to encourage people who may not have tried tennis before to come along and have a go.”