Does the sport of tennis have enough support in Yukon for an indoor facility? Would there be enough players willing to pay for memberships at a year-round facility?
Tennis Yukon has begun the process of finding the answers to those questions. The association recently received a $20,000 grant from the Yukon government’s Community Development Fund to conduct a feasibility study for indoor courts in Whitehorse.
Tennis Yukon plans to hire a consultant with expertise in such matters to determine the practicality of an indoor facility.
“The idea from our perspective is that somebody would take four of five months during the winter looking at other models, and at the end of getting the report ready they would count all the players who are using the outdoor courts,” said Tennis Yukon president Stacy Lewis.
It’s tough to keep the sport going when there’s snow on the ground. Tennis Yukon has found it increasingly difficult to rent time at the Yukon College gym during the winter. Availability at the Canada Games Centre is also slim. In both cases, players are on gymnasium floors that are far from an ideal surface to play on.
“A big factor in our interest in the possibility of an indoor facility is that we continue to struggle to get sufficient rental hours at Yukon College gym,” said Lewis. “This fall and winter we have only been able to get 10 hours a week, and we don’t even get that much some weeks because of getting bumped for special events. It’s barely enough to sustain year-round programming.
“A few years ago, we had 22 hours per week and filled it no problem.
“The good news is that drop-in at the (games centre) is drawing more people. But it’s Tuesday (and) Thursday 10-2, so school-age kids or most working adults cannot participate.”
Tennis Yukon currently has about 135 members. This past year’s participation was between 450-500 adult and youth players, including those from the association’s school program.
This past summer the association sold about 100 shoe-tags for the four courts at Mount McIntyre – the only courts in Whitehorse – that Tennis Yukon acquired stewardship of two seasons ago.
“There are more people that play in the summer than just with shoe-tags because people come and pay the drop-in (fee),” said Lewis. “We’ve definitely seen an increase in that over the last couple summers to the point that last summer every weeknight between 5-9 all four courts were in use.”
Tennis Yukon has considered purchasing a fabric or “bubble” structure for the Mount McIntyre courts, but there are problems with the idea.
A bubble structure is cheaper to purchase, but is expensive to heat. Such structures also require a fan-system to maintain enough air-pressure to keep the bubble inflated.
A permanent steel structure would be cheaper to heat, but would cost more to build.
“That’s the number crunching we need to do,” said Lewis.
Another consideration is that a separate facility with two courts, for example, would bring the number of courts in Whitehorse to six, the minimum for hosting a major event such as a B.C. championship or a Western Canada Summer Games.
Kamloops, which hosted the last Westerns in 2011, built two courts to bring their number up to the minimum of six for the Games.
“You can see that with the softball: if you have a big enough facility, you can have a successful bid,” said Lewis. (Whitehorse is schedule to host two world softball championships over the next two summers and has hosted two in the past.)
Tennis Yukon is also open to sharing the facility with other sport groups to lower costs. The facility could even have a rock-climbing wall, said Lewis.
The idea has not fallen on deaf ears. Whitehorse’s Mountain View Golf Course has spoken to Tennis Yukon about providing land for an indoor facility. The two organizations began tennis-golf summer camps last summer.
The exact location at the golf course, if it were to go forward, would be part of the assessment.
“The exact location hasn’t been completely nailed down,” said club secretary John Spicer. “We have an older clubhouse facility that isn’t in much use these days. Who knows what’s going to happen there, but maybe in that vicinity or over on the other side (of the parking lot).
“There’s the possibility of more year-round activity at that location, which I think is beneficial to the golf side of things.”
And as the nearby Whistle Bend subdivision grows, said Spicer, “it’s probably a good location to have those two facilities together up there.”
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