Partnering To Fill Tennis Courts
By Robin Bateman and Peter Francesconi
As budgets tighten and employees are either let go or work fewer hours, parks and recreation departments find themselves trying to provide important community services with scarce resources. One way an agency can continue to maintain its level of service is through partnerships with other community-minded organizations.
And when it comes to tennis, there is an easy way to partner and keep the courts filled with players of all ages. It’s time to join up with a local Community Tennis Association, or CTA.
CTAs are all about tennis—non-profits with volunteers who are passionate about the sport and work at getting more people to play.
The number-one rule in creating partnerships is to make sure both parties have similar visions and missions. Photos courtesy of Jacksonville Youth Tennis Association
As an organizational member of the U.S. Tennis Association (USTA), CTAs can provide many benefits, including establishing leagues, delivering 10 and Under Tennis for kids, running tournaments, helping to bring tennis into schools, and presenting clinics and round-robins. When it comes to tennis, the local CTA knows how to serve—and deliver.
Why is a booming tennis operation so important? When a parks and rec department runs successful tennis programs, the community benefits in ways that go well outside the lines of the court. For instance, after matches and lessons, tennis players eat at local restaurants, shop at nearby stores, and—if they attend a weekend tennis event—may book hotel rooms in the area. In other words, a thriving tennis calendar brings an economic impact the entire city will appreciate.
Two Groups, One Vision
The number-one rule in creating partnerships is to make sure both parties have similar visions and missions. CTAs want to increase tennis in their communities; your organization should be on board with that, too. Another important component to a successful partnership is ensuring both parties feel they benefit equally in the “profits.”
For example, in 2007, the Macon (Ga.) Parks and Recreation Department teamed up with the Macon Tennis Association and the USTA for a $700,000 renovation of two tennis facilities—36 courts in all. The result meant the Macon Tennis Association would continue to be awarded tournament bids, and the city would realize millions of dollars in economic impact.
“With approximately 20 tournaments held at our two tennis centers, the convention and visitors bureau estimates 10,000 visitors and an economic impact of more than $2.7 million annually,” Larry Fortson, formerly with the Macon Parks and Recreation Department, said at the time.
But not every park and rec-CTA partnership is designed to draw large tournaments to the community. Another successful model is the partnership between the New Haven (Conn.) Park & Recreation Department and New Haven Youth Tennis & Education (NHYTE).
“This program is successful because it is a true community partnership between the parks, the schools, the CTA, and the New Haven Open at Yale [a professional tournament],” says NHYTE Executive Director John Pirtel. Through the partnership, kids not only learn to play tennis and benefit from a healthy, lifetime sport, but they also develop key educational and life skills. And the park fills its courts with programming. When people see full tennis courts, it produces even more interest in tennis—and more players.
How To Get Started
Not sure where to start? USTA.com is a great springboard. You’ll be able to locate section and district contacts, including Tennis in the Parks Peer Advisors, who can provide all the further information you need.
And importantly, the USTA—at the national and section levels, and in some districts—has various grants available that parks and rec agencies and CTAs can apply for.
Pairing with a CTA might take a little leg work initially, but once roles and boundaries are established, both sides benefit. Shortly after the Macon tennis centers were renovated, Larry Fennelly, a longtime tennis player and columnist for The Telegraph newspaper, wrote: “The achievement at our public tennis facilities is just a small example of what can be accomplished when we join hands and pull together.”
Park and rec departments have tennis courts; CTAs have resources, funding, the backing of the U.S. Tennis Association, and a seemingly endless supply of volunteers. Together, you can form an unbeatable doubles team.
Robin Bateman is the site coordinator for the Tattnall Tennis Center in Macon, Ga., where she coordinates tennis programs and leagues, is a tournament director, serves as a team captain, and assists junior teams competing at district, regional, and section events.
Peter Francesconi is the editorial director for Racquet Sports Industry Magazine .
For more information, visit www.usta.com .