As Wimbledon fever spreads across the country, a state-of-the-art indoor tennis centre is closer than ever to being built in Banbury.
The Banbury Tennis Hub would provide courts for schools, clubs and the general public to use whenever and whatever the weather.
Banburyshire clubs have been working with Cherwell district and Banbury town councils for two-and-a-half years on the scheme with recent approval to conduct a feasibility study of potential sites.
Meanwhile the Lawn Tennis Association (LTA) has chosen Banbury as one of 96 locations for new indoor tennis centres, as part of a £125m investment in the grassroots, it revealed last week.
There is still a lot of work to be done before the centre is confirmed but Colin Lynes, a coach at Banbury and West End tennis clubs and Bloxham School, who has been working on the project since the start, believes it would be a game-changer for the area.
He said: “Banbury is off the map at the moment and clubs and the LTA see a need for indoor provision and if and when it happens, it will be a massive boost for Banbury and the surrounding area.”
The nearest public indoor courts for people in Banbury are in Abingdon and at the University of Warwick, meaning many would-be players are put off in wet or cold weather, Mr Lynes said.
But it is thought an indoor centre would make tennis more attractive and accessible for the general public and school children.
“If we’re going to get another Andy Murray or Johanna Konta then to you need to get them playing at primary school age and if there’s an indoor centre in the area it will be a win-win for everyone,” he said.
Mr Lynes added that it was too early to speculate how big the centre would be, how many courts it would have or where it would go.
A district council spokesman said it was already working to secure section 106 monies which will support the project.
While the LTA has developed a model design and indicative costings for new community indoor tennis centres, as well as offering interest-free loans.
District council deputy leader George Reynolds, said: “Cherwell agrees there is a need for indoor tennis in Banbury and is working hard to realise this fantastic opportunity.
“The proposal is supported by Cherwell’s Playing Pitch Sports Facilities Strategy document which projects the level of sporting facilities the town will need in the coming years as it grows.
“Based on this evidence, Cherwell is already planning for a tennis facility of this nature and has been meeting regularly with local tennis clubs to make sure the project chimes with their ambitions.”
An LTA spokesman said it would be working with local authorities and seeking ‘partners’ to help deliver new indoor tennis centres, with a national planning framework to bring consistency, coordination and efficiency to planning applications.
LTA chief executive Scott Lloyd said: “More indoor facilities across England, Scotland and Wales are absolutely crucial to our ambition to open up tennis to many more people.”
To find out more about the Banbury Tennis Hub project, visit banburytennishub.co.uk