A group of tennis lovers are trying to build a clay tennis court facility similar to that of Roland Garros, home of the French Open, in Saanich.
The private group, known as the Cedar Hill Clay Tennis Court Society, is looking to move beyond the public consultation stages and into a partnership with Saanich to build the Vancouver Island’s only public clay tennis facility, on the grounds behind the Cedar Hill Recreation Centre.
Leading the charge is John Miller, who explains the Cedar Hill tennis society would fund the building and maintenance of a facility with at least eight courts.
The model falls in line with the community partnerships between Saanich and soccer, lawn bowling, and squash. The Cedar Hill Squash Club is a prime example as a private club built into the recreation centre, which offers time to Saanich, just as the clay courts would.
“The next step is to put it through the parks and trails and environment committees,” Miller said.
The expectation is Miller and his society of tennis enthusiasts, which includes a cross section of professionals – with an architect, an engineer, a director of the B.C. Winter Games and public health officials – will present to Saanich council in February.
“The society will put up the money to build and operate the facility and then give Saanich court time to the community for lessons,” Miller said.
Miller is also a part-time instructor with Saanich-run tennis lessons out of the Cedar Hill rec centre and has seen first hand the long wait lists for Cedar Hill’s four indoor courts.
“It will alleviate the waiting lists for Saanich’s programs and lessons and it just makes sense to build courts at that facility, as Saanich users will be able to access our courts,” Miller said.
In a fall 2012 survey of Cedar Hill park users, the biggest piece of research done to date, 698 of the 901 respondents said they were in favour of a non-profit society to manage a clay court tennis facility with public access, at the Cedar Hill rec centre.
The survey did demonstrate that not everybody is in favour of more tennis courts.
Almost 80 per cent of respondents said they use the recreation centre. Fifty-seven per cent said they use the chip trail, while 3.3 per cent said they use the softball-slow pitch diamonds, and five per cent said they use the diamonds for other uses, such as dog walking.
“There’s certainly people out there that aren’t interested, so we’re just trying to balance out what’s best for the overall community,” said Doug Henderson, director of Saanich Parks and recreation.
So far the numbers seem to be overwhelmingly in favour of the new courts.
“We had an open house at Cedar Hill (on Oct. 2) and it was one of the biggest turnouts that anyone can remember,” Miller said.
Membership for the new clay court tennis club will be capped between 500 and 600, and they’ve already received deposits on the first 150. “To sell that many in the pre-construction phase is fantastic. A lot of people signed on for multiple years.”
The fees are currently selling at a discount of $500, roughly the equivalent of what you’d pay for a gym or squash club membership.
The clay courts will require day-to-day maintenance. The clay is layers of sand and crushed stone, so damaged areas can be repaired in an afternoon.
“There are no public clay courts on Vancouver Island, which doesn’t make sense, because this is the perfect climate, more and more hard courts around the world are being torn up and replaced by clay,” Miller said.