Chairman's delight as ribbon is cut on the first-ever courts for Ashbourne TC
CHAIRMAN of Ashbourne Tennis Club Cyril Challinor says it will "be a pleasure" to see players from the club play on the newly-opened courts for the first time ever.
For years, the club have had to rely on council and school facilities in order to play.
But now they can enjoy playing on one of the three new floodlit courts built for them near the town's Peak Gateway Leisure Club, off Moor Lane.
Construction workers moved on to the land in February after the club secured £50,000 from the Inspired Facilities Olympic legacy fund last year. The national Lawn Tennis Association also contributed £112,000 towards the project.
Peter Bretherton, president of the LTA, was invited to a ceremony to officially open the courts and hand over the keys to Challinor.
Challinor said: "It is fantastic to see the courts finally being built, after lots of hard work and planning.
"It will be a pleasure to watch our club members playing on their own courts for the first time.
"The junior section deserve this new facility and I'm sure that the club will continue to grow as a result of the construction of the new courts."
During the ceremony, a special thank-you was given to club volunteer Jenni Bull – who has been running Saturday coaching sessions for the club since 2001.
The youngsters – aged between three and 18 – regularly compete in tournaments and, in 2011, Ashbourne won the AEGON Team Tennis League at under-eight, under-nine, under-16 and under-18 levels.
The club feel this success was hugely important in helping them secure the grants and funding needed to build the courts.
Andy Bailey, vice-chairman of Ashbourne, said: "Mr Bretherton congratulated the club on completing the project and recognised, in particular, Jenni's work – which is at the heart of the new scheme."
Bull, of Ellastone – who picked up the volunteer of the year title at the Derbyshire Tennis Awards in 2010 – was named as one of three finalists for the regional award.
Those who nominated her said she had been on "a mission to introduce the sport of tennis to a new generation of young players" and she just missed out to a couple who went on to win the national award as well.
Bailey said: "We also thanked all those who had contributed to the project and acknowledged the huge financial support from both the LTA and Sport England.
"We also had a representative from Sport England, Russell Turner, who thanked us for a warm welcome to the club and congratulated us on what we had achieved.
"He said he was sure it would make an enormous difference to both the club and the players in and around Ashbourne."
To mark the opening of the courts, an exhibition match was played between Derbyshire and Great Britain veteran Ashley Broomhead, Spondon and top European junior Sam Ferguson, Mat Lowe, who represented Great Britain at the Youth Olympics, and Ashbourne junior Tom Bibby.
The final place on the court was taken by a selection of Ashbourne juniors – Ben Taylor-Grout, Bibby, Ben Sanders, Matt Emmerson and Rob Farr – each playing in turn.
Bailey said: "The match attracted great interest and support and the juniors all coped fantastically with the high-level play. They represented the club well."
Ashbourne's under-16 team also hosted Belper Meadows Tennis Club on the courts.
The club said, because of the prospect of the new courts, they have attracted 30 new members in the past couple of weeks.
Paul Sheard, LTA tennis development manager for Derbyshire and Leicestershire, said: "It's great to see the new facilities at Ashbourne finally open.
"The club do a tremendous job with their junior coaching programme, introducing new players to the sport of tennis.
"I'm sure the club will continue to go from strength-to-strength and attract new players to the game."