Oxford City Council has created Oxford’s first publicly-accessible floodlit tennis courts in Florence Park.
The £264,000 project - funded by the Lawn Tennis Association (LTA) and Oxford City Council - includes new light-emitting diode (LED) court lights, nets, posts and surface – installed across all five of the park’s outdoor tennis courts.
The work will enable the park’s tennis courts to open into the evenings – adding 5,000 more playing hours at the facility every year.
Work started at the end of August and was completed at the end of October. The new timetable – which will see the facility’s closing time extended from dusk to 10pm in the week and 9pm at weekends – will be available from Friday 17th November after the opening event on Thursday 16th November.
The opening event, organised and hosted by Parks Tennis, will start at 3pm with local school children invited to come and play on the new surface and later in the afternoon/evening will include fun free coaching activities and free play with a countdown to the big switch on at 4.15pm.
The LTA President Martin Corrie and Councillor Linda Smith will be opening the event which is open to the local community to attend.
The LTA recently announced an historic £125 million pound investment into improving grassroots tennis facilities across the UK. The Transforming British Tennis Together initiative aims to increase all year round participation by doubling the number of floodlight and covered courts over the next 10 years. A further £125 million is available through match funding from local authorities with Oxford hoping to benefit from the investment.
One of the City Council’s key objectives is to increase participation in sport to help tackle health inequalities across Oxford. Men in the least deprived area of Oxford outlive those in the most deprived areas by an average of 9.7 years.
Oxford City Council owns over 20 grass and hard tennis courts across Alexandra Park, Botley Recreation Ground, Bury Knowle Park, Cutteslowe and Sunnymead Park, Hinksey Park, and Florence Park. Some tennis court facilities are free for residents to book and play, whilst others can be rented at a rate of £6 per hour. Parks where there is a charge may offer free booking during off-peak hours.
The City Council’s tennis facilities are run by Parks Tennis, a community interest company, who have been working in partnership with the City Council for 3 years now to bring low-cost tennis and coaching for all ages and abilities to Oxford's public parks. Over 5,000 people have been engaged in community tennis in that time with 3,000 people playing on our community courts in 2016.
The Parks Tennis programme offers something for everyone including pay & play court bookings for those that just want to play a social match, coaching for those looking to learn the game or improve their skills, cardio-tennis for anyone wanting to focus on fitness, Advantage Tennis just for the men, Tennis Tuesdays just for women and the Oxford Tennis League for that friendly competition!
The Florence Park development adds momentum to Oxford’s community facilities and recently started work on a £4.9m new sports park near Horspath, which will feature new football, cricket and softball pitches, practice areas, a pavilion and changing rooms. The facility will be completed in January.
The work also follows the construction of the £9m Leys Pools and Leisure Centre in 2015, and the £4m Rose Hill Community Centre and £1m Oxford Spires Sport & Fitness last year. Later this year work will also be completed on the final part of a £4.5m redevelopment of the city’s sports pavilions.
Councillor Linda Smith, Executive Board Member for Leisure, Sport and Parks, said: “This investment in facilities at Florence Park is great news for tennis in Oxford, and the extra playing hours created by the new lighting will mean there will be more opportunity than ever before for Oxford residents to play. I know the ability to play until late in the evening will be a god-send for many keen players who lead busy lives. Florence Park already has a Green Flag award for the high quality of its facilities, and the upgraded tennis courts will further add to its attraction”.
Nina Graveson-Bridge, Community Business Manager, LTA said: "We’re really excited about the improvements to the facilities at Florence Park which will give more people in Oxford the opportunity to play tennis for longer particularly during the winter months. This type of investment in grassroots facilities is absolutely vital to get people playing regardless of their ability or background and is a crucial part of the vision to grow the game in the city shared by the LTA, Oxford City Council and Park Tennis. We’re looking forward to working with the council in the weeks and months ahead to explore the opportunities for even further improvements offered by our Transforming British Tennis Together programme."
Andy Aitken, Oxford Community Tennis Manager for Parks Tennis, said: “Our coaches are working hard to bring tennis to all ages and abilities, and these new facilities mean they can now work all year round. Our mission is to improve lives through tennis and Florence Park is now an even better place to enjoy fresh air fun, get fit with friends and learn skills for life. We have a varied programme that fits perfectly with Oxford’s drive to increase participation across the community and we invite everyone to come and light up the courts!”
For more information about tennis facilities across Oxford, visit: www.oxford.gov.uk/tennis.
To find out more about opportunities to play, visit www.tennisoxford.com.