Bishop's Stortford Lawn Tennis Club installing bubble as part of £250,000 project
Bishop’s Stortford Lawn Tennis Club hope the whole community will benefit from its £250,000 upgrade project.
Work began last week at the Cricketfield Lane club to resurface the three clay courts and install a transparent dome, known as a bubble, so that they can be used between October 1 and April 1 every year.
The bubble is due to be ‘blown up’ on Friday, October 4 and the official launch party is scheduled for Saturday, October 12 when former Davis Cup player Danny Sapsford and his charitable company Bright Ideas for Tennis will be the hosts.
The club currently has 430 members – the youngest being three-years-old and the oldest being a non-playing 96-year-old – and they have 14 courts. But the six grass courts and three clay courts are out of bounds from November until the start of the summer season, leaving them with just five artificial ones.
The bubble project will allow more people to pick up a racket and either improve their game or develop a passion for the sport during the autumn and winter months.
And the club have been able to carry out the work thanks to the incredible generosity of members who have helped fund it.
“We’ve been quite fortunate as one of our members was very generous and donated just shy of £100,000 to resurface the five artificial courts last April,” said chairman Pete Harris. “That allowed us to put the £100,000 that we had put aside for those towards the bubble.
“We then had £60,000 from Sport England and a bit more of our money stashed away. We were also working with the LTA but unfortunately they pulled the plug and we had to find the rest of the money ourselves.
“We asked members if any would be willing to loan us the money and, very generously, we’ve had between ten and 15 people loaning us £70,000 to take us up to the £250,000 to make the project happen.
“I think everyone believes in what we’re trying to do and sees the benefit for them and the community.”
The club caters for juniors all the way through to veterans, with an over-75s team potentially being added to the over-55s and over-65s squads.
A one-year trial will allow members to use the clay courts inside the temporary bubble, which will be stored away for the other six months of the year, for free, while the club also now offers pay-and-play sessions for non-members.
“We’ve got 430 members at the moment and we’re looking to grow that,” said Harris, who is head of PE at The Bishop’s Stortford High School.
“We want to get more people engaged and playing tennis at different times and of different abilities.
“It’s not just about playing in teams, it’s about getting as many people down here as possible making use of the facilities.
“The more they get used the better it is for the club, the better it is for the community and the better it is for health and mental wellbeing. That’s what we’re really trying to drive.”
Getting more girls playing tennis is another big aim for the club, and people of all ages and abilities can attend their open day on Sunday, May 19.
“Hopefully we can encourage people to play all year round. We’re also really keen to get more females involved, especially girls,” said Harris.
“That’s what we’re trying to push as we’ve got a lack of girls playing and we’ve also linked up with Herts and Essex High School to help with their coaching programme in a project they’ve created with the LTA.”
Visit www.bsltc.co.uk for more details about the club and the open day on Sunday, May 19. Any businesses interested in sponsoring the bubble and acquiring naming rights should email firstname.lastname@example.org.