Fresh bid in play to upgrade tennis centre

ANOTHER attempt is being made to upgrade Graves Tennis and Leisure Centre at Norton.

Plans have been drawn up to add two indoor courts and to create a new car park as part of a proposed first phase of redevelopment that ultimately aims to offer “a centre of tennis excellence” and public and private sports facilities.

The ambition has been in the air for years but has been knocked back twice as a result of anticipated deals with specialist operators falling through.

Now Sheffield International Venues, which has taken over Graves from the council, is picking up the ball with a view to the centre offering “integrated health, tennis, leisure, swimming and multi-sports facilities”.

The initial scheme involves two new indoor courts. The construction of a 107-space car park would mean the loss of two outdoor courts but six existing floodlit courts would be resurfaced and two others upgraded and floodlit.

SIV’s consultants say the ultimate aim is to provide community and private membership facilities and “to give the people of Norton, Batemoor and the south of Sheffield a viable alternative to travelling further afield to the centre of Sheffield or Chesterfield for their recreational activities”.

The council is turning to SIV, which already runs sports and leisure centres across the city, after the collapse of a proposed partnership with Win Tennis in 2010.

It had been hoped to transform the campus into a world-class tennis and leisure complex to train future champions and to generate spin-offs for private and public customers.

Planning permission was granted for an £18m development including a private members’ leisure club with fitness studios, a pool and spas and, crucially from the council’s perspective, a new community swimming pool, sports hall and tennis courts for public use.

The council had agreed a 125-year lease but delays crept amid negotiation of the financial details.

A suggested deal with another operator had failed to materialise previously.

SIV chief executive Steve Brailey said: “SIV has recognised investment and regeneration opportunities for Graves to extend the tennis offer and improve the facilities at the venue. In this first phase we will add two additional indoor courts, improve our outdoor tennis facilities and create additional parking spaces.

“Support and investment for this project will come through funding from the Lawn Tennis Association following the submission of a bid to the sport’s governing body.”

Mr Brailey added: “This is the first stage of a project to redevelop the existing facilities and create a tennis and leisure centre that can attract more customers.

“We aim to improve and extend the existing facilities to include integrated health, tennis, leisure, swimming and multi-sports facilities.

“It is envisaged the proposed alterations and extensions will generate additional revenue streams for the centre and enhance new initiatives already introduced by SIV including Tennis Unlimited and Fitness Unlimited to encourage and increase participation.”

lA new subsidiary trust is being set up to run Sheffield’s sports facilities.

They will be transferred from Sheffield City Trust and Sheffield International Venues in a move that is designed to increase opportunities to compete for other management contracts and to maximise tax and charity benefits.

Council cabinet member Coun Helen Mirfin-Boukouris said: “The transfer to the new trust will have several benefits, but most importantly, allow them to compete on equal terms with other trusts when bidding for contracts outside the city.

“This will open up the potential for any additional income earned by the trust to be invested in our local facilities but we have made it clear that the council will not be liable should there be any losses on activities at facilities outside the city.”