After reading the article on this site about the newly opened tennis courts in Columbo St, I just called them to find out about booking arrangements (miserble / rude / bored telephone staff). It costs £8.50 per hour!! With no off peak discounts. Thats more than what Royal Parks charge. A total rip off in my opinon! If I remember correctly, Regents and Hyde Park charge £6 and £7 respectively per hour, off peak. This is the Royal Borough of Southwark.
There are several artificial grass courts in surrounding boroughs that charge about half the price, and without the additional messy, confusing and hypnotising lines to cater for basketball and all the other sports that share the turf.
Granted, it's a premium location for courts, but for local people, at that price, it's not going to encourage any of the local kids to take up the sport. It's a very residential area after all. To me, it would seem that facility management is keen to capitalise on the potential revenue that would be generated by local office workers who'd like to burn off some cal's/stress and ignoring locals. Not to say locals couldn't afford it, but its too expensive for any part of London. Even if they were some of the best courts in London, £17 to cover yourself for a proper match? Plus parking for your mates? Nahhh. Oh, plus congestion charge, soon to be £8! haha.
I spent some time in New York City, over there (as of summer 2003), it was $100 per year for a permit that gave you 1 hour access to any court in the 5 boroughs, any day, any time. You could keep on playing, as long as it was free or you'd have to move to another court. It was a bookable option in Central Park's 20 or so courts. Walk on option in most other parks. It's a system that worked and its a system that encourages people of all age groups and walks of life to play. The park cleaners would check on players permits in smaller parks on an hourly basis. It was so popular during the summer in Williamsburg, Brooklyn where I was, you'd have local entrepreneur's walking around with drinks coolers in shopping carts full of drinks to sell to the players. So, 10 hours of tennis in Columbo would pay for my annual pass in NY :) Then again, my all zone (there are no zones) weekly Metrocard (Travelcard) was about $17.50 back then.
I used to play competitively as a teenager, but more than 10 years on, there are still only 2 indoor tennis centres in London (£20/hr), 2 others in zone's 5&6. Back in the day, apart from the dog chewed nets in the uneven and dangerously slippy courts in Archbishops Park, I'd have to travel miles away. Given that I'm now back in the area, 5 mins from Columbo, I guess I STILL have to haha. I'm not paying £8.50 to be hynotised by 10 other lines in different colours on court.
Year after year, come Wimbledon the press and the rest of the nation get talking about Tim Henman and possible young Brits to follow in his moody and lifeless footsteps blah blah blah. How booooring. In tandem with the current hyprocracy about kids not eating properly and not being active etc.... Hey LTA and local councils, this is the reason why we're crap at the sport. Well, I hope it wasn't my council tax that contributed to the funding of the facility. But, I'm sure it did.
Sorry for the long rant, but its not money thats the main issue, it's the mentality that gets me annoyed. With all the local political PR and press coverage this facility gets, all I can say is... stupid.
Please be realistic Columbo. Oh, and sort your moody telephone staff out.
This is a common problem with regeneration funded sports facilities. To get the money you need to prove the facility is 'sustainable' and that usually means prices that are out of the reach of ordinary people, which sort of defeats the object. Discounts may be given to organised community groups, but it is difficult provide similar to deserving casual users. (I suspect the London Nautical School might be the main beneficiary, whilst I know a number of local residents were very unhappy to lose their pocket of green.)
We have a similar debate going on in Archbishops. The Redra football pitch is crummy and schools won't use it. However I have seen local kids play casual games of about 20 a side in summer. A consultation was run on how it might be improved, but this was limited to organised sports groups. I argued hard that the unorganised also needed to be represented, but to no avail. With political help we managed to head off an early idea that the amount of space devoted to football might be increased.but were left with a proposal that the Redgra pitch be replaced with...Redgra. So we still get pink dust floating over the toddler playground and into neighbours' windows, it is still unsuitable for schools, and this time round kids will need to pay to access.
Other more powerful people are on side with us on this one, so I am still hoping that there can be a wider debate, which would include access and maintenance, and the needs of other park users. But your views on Colombo Street are predictable. And the ranting is welcome in that I hope this will increase the likelyhood that whatever happens in Archbishops will be sustainable in a community sense by properly meeting community needs, rather than just a financial one.
The worst problem with Colombo Street tennis courts (apart from the price) is they are only available for private hire early morning, lunchtime and early evening. In between hours and all weekend they are for community group use. I'm a local resident and a member of the Centre, but can't play at weekends unless I join a group. What about people (like me) who work unpredictable hour and just fancy a spur of the moment game - joining an organise group, which meets on set dates, at set hours isn't an option. I wish I understood the reasoning behind this, because practically every time I pass the courts on Saturday/Sunday, they're empty apart from a children's group which seems to use them on Saturday morning.