Pack Your Tennis Courts with Players and Programs

October 1, 2012, Department, by Robin Bateman

Teaming up with Community Tennis Associations can promote your brand, increase advocacy for your agency, and get more participants involved in your tennis programs.The unpleasant fact of shrinking budgets, reduced and overworked staff, and condensed hours of operation force park and recreation departments to seek alternative methods of preserving current quality-of-service levels to its residents. Alliances with like-minded organizations could fill in the blanks when looking for creative ways to maintain programming that best serves your community.

Tennis players are fanatics with a deep sense of community accompanied by a strong desire to share their passion for the game with others. As a result, they often form community tennis associations (CTAs) to execute these goals. A surefire way for you to increase tennis programming, participation, leagues, tournaments, and even advocacy is through your local CTA.

CTAs are nonprofit organizations filled with volunteers who thrive on increasing participation and promotion. As an organizational member of the U.S. Tennis Association (USTA), their “can do” list is endless. CTAs coordinate leagues, organize 10 and Under Tennis for kids, host and run tournaments, introduce tennis into schools, arrange clinics and round robins, and more.

What’s so important about a booming tennis operation? When a park and recreation 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 you’ve organized a weekend tennis event, may book hotel rooms in your area. In other words, a thriving tennis calendar brings an economic impact your entire city will appreciate.

It’s not just about the programming. CTAs mean money. “Registered CTAs have access to resources from the USTA’s national, section, and district offices,” says Kurt Kamperman, chief executive, Community Tennis, USTA. “Partnering with a CTA can open up some important grant and scholarship opportunities for park and rec agencies.”

Furthermore, teaming up with CTAs means you aren’t restricted to the slower-moving wheels of government. A CTA can write a check almost immediately, meaning you can replace a net damaged by unforeseen high winds or vandalism, etc.

What do parks give CTAs? The tennis courts! Park departments ensure air-conditioned/heated facilities equipped with locker rooms and restrooms. Park tennis centers keep the landscaping trimmed, the drink machines filled, the courts cleaned and resurfaced, and the nets secure while providing a safe, family- friendly environment. Also, more than 70 percent of all tennis happens on public courts. David Slade, national manager for the USTA, says, “The USTA’s commitment to support our parks that deliver tennis is unwavering.”

Successful partnerships have paid off nicely for both the Bucks County Tennis Association (BCTA) and the local parks agencies in the BCTA’s eastern Pennsylvania region—and the winners are the area’s residents. The BCTA runs programs, leagues, etc., for adults and kids, working with 13 park and recreation departments and other entities. “We’ve found a niche on our public park courts,” says BCTA President Barbara Long. “We started in 2005 with 55 participants. Now we have over 1,300 [and that doesn’t include] an additional 1,323 in PE tennis ‘play days.’”

The positive effects of tennis advocacy played a role in 2011 when the City of Macon, Georgia, held an election for a one-cent increase in the Special Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST). If passed, the tennis division of parks would receive almost $3 million. Approximately $1.2 million was allocated for the existing 24-court tennis center, $500,000 to the 12-feeder sites, and the remainder would be used to build a brand-new 16-court tennis facility.

“As tennis manager,” says Carl Hodge, tennis manager for Macon-Bibb County Parks and Recreation, “I wanted to have a better looking tennis facility and pass the SPLOST, but as an employee, I wasn’t allowed to go out and lobby. However, I could relay the facts to the Macon Tennis Association [MTA] and they in turn could make the decision to endorse it.”

The MTA had a reach of more than 2,000 citizens. Advocacy played a role for the support and eventual passing of SPLOST.

Hooking up with a CTA might take a little legwork initially, but once roles and boundaries are established, both sides benefit. Mary Henderson, retired director of Parks, Recreation, and Cultural Resources for Cary, North Carolina, and current committee chair for USTA Tennis in the Parks, says, “For park and recreation professionals interested in promoting program growth, maximizing facility use, and building community support and advocacy, especially in these difficult economic times,” she says, “I recommend that you create or expand a relationship with your CTA.”

Park and recreation departments have tennis courts; CTAs have resources, funding, the backing of the USTA, and a seemingly endless supply of volunteers. Together, you can form an unbeatable doubles team. In the words of Scott Hannover, director of tennis for Plaza Tennis Center, a Kansas City, Missouri, park and recreation facility, “Parks plus CTAs equal tennis for everyone.”
 

 Where do I start?
USTA.com is a great launch pad. Once there, be sure to check out the following:
- Your District and your Section—These organizations will network and lobby for you.
- Tennis in the Parks (TIP)—Committed to helping park agencies stay current with the sport, connecting facilities with available grants, hooking up with a TIP Peer Advisor, and providing free marketing materials.
- Community Tennis Association—Provides an array of information including how to form and register a CTA. Many park agencies have found success in forming their own CTAs.
- Resources—USTA offers three types of facility assistance. www.usta.com/Facilities/facility_services
- Advocacy—Not sure how to get the support of your elected officials and other community members? Learn how to utilize advocacy as a driving component to achieving your tennis goals. Visit USTA’s The Big Serve at www.usta.com/About-USTA/TheBigServe for more information. Furthermore, USTA employs advocacy consultants. “Many of our clients have visions, but they don’t know where or how to start,” says David Lasota, USTA’s national technical consultant. That’s where USTA advocacy consultants come into play.
- Technical—The USTA’s technical team can offer your park agency everything from concept plans to professional construction document review.
- Financial—Looking for money to resurface, renovate, or acquire permanent Quick-Start lines? Get more information about the various facilities grants offered by USTA at www.usta.com