Scott Dunlop: Community Tennis: It’s Time For More Public Court Booking And Programs

Written by: Scott Dunlop

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***Scott Dunlop is a business lawyer in Vancouver and President of Juump Sports Interactive (www.juump.com). Juump is the free online community that makes it easy to meet people and play more tennis, right in your neighborhood. Scott was a member of the Princeton University and Canadian Junior Davis Cup tennis teams, a teaching pro and a manager of national and professional tennis tournaments and exhibition matches. Scott served on the Boards of the National Capital Tennis Association and Tennis BC and as President of Tennis BC.***

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I predict that this year many financially strapped municipalities, schools and park authorities will begin planning to allow public-private partnerships and franchises to carry on court booking and tennis programming to generate revenue. Such programs already exist at great public facilities like Balboa Tennis Club in San Diego and Stanley Park in Vancouver. However these kinds of public-private operations remain few and far between.

Most public authorities simply build tennis courts and facilities and leave them alone; not even bothering to maintain them, let alone provide court booking or tennis programming. Yet these same authorities desperately need more revenue. Tennis facilities with court booking and programming make money and provide the public what they want: an option to book court times and to participate with others in learning and organized play.

Public authorities charge users for most other public facilities and allow instructors to teach courses in just about every kind of activity. Think of swimming pools, golf courses and baseball fields. It’s not as if it’s a foreign concept.

So why don’t municipal managers push for more organized “for pay” tennis activities? Perhaps they don’t know how, or don’t want to go through the process of putting a system in place. One suggestion might be for for authorities to consider contracting out tennis services or putting out a request for proposal for a public private partnership. That way the private entity could take over maintenance and provisioning of the courts and programs, the public would have nicer courts with some options to book courts and participate in lessons and competitions and the authorities would have better facilities and more revenue. The authorities can set the number of courts and times that can be scheduled for pay activities in accordance with local demand and policy.

Paid organized tennis activities on public courts is a win-win proposition. Tennis players and pros need to make our public authorities more aware of this. The USTA and other tennis authorities should be advocating this idea much more strongly.

We’d like to kick off a productive dialog on this topic. If you’re a tennis player, coach, or pro, if you manage or organize activity on public courts, or if you simply have an opinion, we’d like to hear from you. What are your thoughts?

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