End of an era for Welcome Bay tennis courts

By Sonya Bateson

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END OF AN ERA: Debra Machin is saddened by the impending closure of the Welcome Bay Tennis Club. PHOTO/GEORGE NOVAK
END OF AN ERA: Debra Machin is saddened by the impending closure of the Welcome Bay Tennis Club. PHOTO/GEORGE NOVAK

The Welcome Bay Tennis Club is wrapping up after 28 years, but the facility will still be available to the public - for now.

The club, based at Selwyn Park on Victory St, is winding up in April after years of declining membership, meaning ownership of the club building will revert to Tauranga City Council.

Club president Debra Machin, who has been at the club almost since it started, said it was sad to see the club closing.

"Over the years, there has been a steady decline, at least for about the last 10 years. People started drifting away because our courts weren't great or for other reasons, such as moving to other clubs.

"After it started, it became like a domino effect. It's been a vicious cycle because the more people that leave, the less subs are coming in to help fix things up."

The club will be unofficially wrapping up today with a game, food and drinks.

Ms Machin said 20 years ago, there would be about 45 people on a Saturday at the courts, which could fit 24 people at a time.

"People would be sitting around, eating, playing with the kids, chatting, having fun. It's really sad to see this happen. The club is right in the heart of Welcome Bay."

At its height, there were more than 100 members. The club stopped accepting paying members two years ago, except juniors, as the committee felt members would not get their money's worth.

Ms Machin said there was a problem with the drainage at the courts, which had caused the surface to crack. The council addressed drainage issues about 18 months ago, but Ms Machin said it was "too little, too late".

The best-case scenario would be for someone to revive the club, Ms Machin said. Tauranga City Council team leader of sport and recreation Josh Trafford said the land the club was on was council-owned, but the building was owned by the club. "When the club dissolves, the assets will defer to council ownership. The future of that building will be at the discretion of councillors."

Mr Trafford said there was no intention in the short term to change anything at the site and it was possible another club may want to take over the premises and have the courts fixed.

"We haven't walked away from tennis in Welcome Bay or made the decision to stop tennis there."

He said it would take $100,000 to resurface the asphalt and rubber tennis courts.

The club's subs at the moment were not enough to cover this and had been used to pay for things such as fixing nets and buying new ones.

The other primary user of the club's facilities was the YMCA, which ran an after-school programme there. Mr Trafford said this would continue.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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