The Club Development Committee has been working closely with the Lawn Tennis Association (LTA) to shape a sustainable vision for the club which benefits all members, and we've produced a detailed Business Plan including risk analysis, sources of funding and financial forecasts.
The LTA supports our vision of a 2-phase development resulting in an improved clubhouse, three new artificial clay 'show courts' close to the clubhouse, and five high quality croquet lawns grouped at the southern end of the grounds. If further funding became available then Phase 3 would see construction of an indoor court facility.
Unfortunately the project is currently stalled as no agreement has been reached with the Croquet Committee over moving two of the croquet lawns to allow creation of the new 'show courts' next to the clubhouse. The quote put forward by Croquet is unaffordable, but Croquet is not willing to consider a cheaper alternative proposal.
The purpose of this newsletter is to set out the Club Development Committee's recommendations so that members are better informed and are given the opportunity to express their own views on how development should proceed.
1) Our vision for the club
East Dorset Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club aspires to provide a welcoming, safe and inclusive environment where people of all ages, backgrounds and abilities are provided opportunities to develop their playing skills and progress in their chosen sport.
We believe it's important to have a long-term vision for the club (where we’ll be in 10 years’ time), hence why we’re not rushing to put new courts in the wrong place.
The purpose of the Business Plan is to provide a detailed account of where the club currently is, where we hope to be in the future and how we plan to get there. It is intended to be used as the basis for funding applications to secure the finances required for clubhouse renovation and improved playing surfaces.
Phase 1: Apply for funding in order to renew and extend the southern end of the clubhouse and prepare the relocation of Croquet Lawns 3 & 4 to the southern end of the grounds (where the grass courts currently are). At the same time extra parking spaces would be created within the club entrance and around the astro courts.
A key part of this phase would be to open a new fitness studio in the clubhouse, generating revenue and attracting new members and greater footfall. The studio would be air conditioned and purpose built, and be hired out for a variety of classes (including fitness, yoga, pilates and dance). The income from the fitness studio would be crucial to paying back loans from the LTA and making club development viable.
Phase 2: Install three artificial clay courts next to the northern end of the clubhouse, and apply for funding for an extension to the norther end of the clubhouse to include a patio area overlooking the 'show courts' (once the croquet lawns have been successfully relocated).
Phase 3: If additional funding is available at a later stage, then we would look to build an indoor tennis facility.
a) Clubhouse Development
We believe that the clubhouse needs to become a modern inviting space, used by members as well as the wider community.
In Phase 1 of development the southern end of the clubhouse will be renewed and extended to include:
• Main entrance
• Reception area with club office
• Changing rooms
• Fitness studio/room for hire
• Treatment room
With proper management the fitness studio will be an important source of income for the club and increase footfall to the cafe/bar area. It could be hired out for all kinds of classes, similar to the current Function Room, but will be purpose-built.
In Phase 2 we will make improvements to the northern end of the clubhouse including the cafe and bar area, and build a patio area overlooking the tennis 'show courts'.
b) Tennis Development
We've completed extensive research of UK tennis clubs to ascertain the best playing surfaces and visited clubs like Winchester, Hale Gardens and even the All England Club Wimbledon.
There is clear evidence that modern artificial clay courts provide an excellent and forgiving playing surface popular with both coaches and members alike, which is why we have chosen this surface for our new 'show courts'.
In addition we wish to clean and re-paint the four hard courts this year and maintain 3 high quality grass courts in 'the cage', which played to an excellent standard last year thanks to new groundsman Daniel Tomberry's hard work.
Our club would then be in the enviable position of being one of only a handful of clubs in the country to have 4 different tennis court surfaces (astro, hard, grass and artificial clay).
c) Croquet Development
The aim is to reduce the current decline in membership so as to retain five high quality croquet lawns. Under the development proposals, the five lawns would be situated together at the southern end of the grounds over the current grass courts, so that croquet players have fewer interruptions from passers-by and tennis players. Three of the croquet lawns will remain unchanged, while two will need to be re-laid over the grass courts.
The Croquet Committee was asked to obtain costings for new lawns at their preferred specification, and returned with a figure of £250,000 for new lawns set to USGA (United States Golf Association) standard. The Executive Committee approved the new lawn specification provided it was affordable.
However, the LTA will not fund the £250,000 and as no other source of funding is available this specification is unaffordable. It should be noted that no funding is available from the Croquet Association either.
Instead, at a meeting on 12/10/2016, the LTA recommended we consider an alternative self-help scheme (referred to as Plan B) to move Croquet Lawns 3 and 4. A similar approach was used to lay Croquet Lawn 1 a number of years ago, and this is widely regarded by croquet members as the club’s best playing surface.
The Development Committee believes that Plan B is a sensible alternative that would ensure high quality croquet lawns but at a much more affordable cost, in the region of £50,000. In Plan B, the Grounds Committee would self-manage the new lawns but bring in help from other croquet clubs who have experience of doing this, e.g. Roehampton. Work on the lawns would start as soon as possible by the Groundsman, with help from club members, although it would be several years before they reached tournament standard.
The Development Committee presented the LTA’s recommendations about Plan B to the Executive Committee meeting of 08/11/2016, however the Croquet representatives did not agree to pursue the alternative self-help scheme. It was noted in the minutes of this meeting that “…any Plan B was not acceptable to Croquet...”
Sadly development plans have been stalled since this meeting, as agreement on moving the lawns is crucial to allow Phase 1 to begin.
d) Bridge Development
We believe that Bridge members will benefit from the proposed clubhouse improvements and the additional parking spaces that will come with development.
Bridge currently offers three different Bridge sessions during the week, including Duplicate Bridge on a Wednesday evening and a popular Friday afternoon session for those wishing to play less serious bridge and enjoy a tutorial. This will of course continue with club development.
2) Recommendations of the LTA
The Club Development Committee has attended a series of meetings with James Deem, LTA Regional Development Officer, to discuss our proposals and potential sources of LTA funding. The most recent of these meetings was in October 2016, when James supported our vision for the club and made the following recommendations:
• Improving the clubhouse will benefit existing members and attract new members
• All members will also benefit from car parking improvements
• The LTA would support our application for funding for three additional courts
• Clubs with a variety of court surfaces are more attractive to new members
James also recommended changing the club's legal status to a 'company limited by guarantee', which has now been achieved thanks to the hard work of a working party led by Tom Lomasney, Simon Gribbin and Michael Barrow.
Finally he said it's very important to consider new members when making development plans. We've currently got a decline in tennis and croquet membership so we can't afford not to modernise.
3) Next Steps
• Reach agreement on moving the two croquet lawns
• Update the Business Plan with the latest risk assessment and financial forecasts
• Put the Business Plan to the LTA and then to the Executive Committee
• If approved by the EC, then put the Business Plan to club members for a vote
• If approved by members, we could then apply for funding from the LTA (Club Facility Fund) and other sources
A big thank you to David Lloyd and our Fundraising Group for organising some great fundraising events in recent months, including the recent Musical Night featuring the club's own band, the Hard Court Rockers!
All monies raised have gone towards our club development fund, and we're delighted to announce that we've now raised over £10,000!
Upcoming events include a Skittles Night on Saturday 22nd April, further details coming soon!
Club Development Team
Paul Nation (chair), Simon Gribbin, Doug Topple, Clive Richardson, Richard Bowker, Pauline Heaver, David Lloyd, Sue Hobden, Brian McFadden, Sally Revell