Tennis players as a ‘pride of the town’, Bendigo’s grass tennis courts, repurposed

    Bendigo’s last remaining lawn tennis courts will soon be no longer, as council begins works to repurpose the site.

    The City of Greater Bendigo said it would begin removing the fencing, reshaping the slopes and ripping up the grass at the old Bendigo Lawn Courts on Barnard Street, within the next few weeks.

    Joan Self played on Bendigo’s lawn courts for 30 years, but when she found out the midweek women’s competition was moving to hard courts, she considered not playing anymore.

    “I didn’t really want to play anymore, because I find the hard courts harder on my joints.”

    “Every country town has lawn courts. It’s a pride of the town.”

    “And Bendigo will not have lawn courts.”

    Two woman standing smiling at the camera wearing tennis sport clothing, including visors.
    Joan and Belinda played on Bendigo’s Lawn Courts for decades, before they were moved to the new tennis centre. (ABC Central Victoria: Shannon Schubert)

    Belinda O’Meara grew up playing tennis on Bendigo’s lawn courts and said it was devastating to see them go.

    “We should be encouraging people to play more sports, not taking away sporting facilities.”

    There are fears residents who had played for decades had now stopped playing, as the competition was moved to hard courts.

    “There’s a lot of elderly people that will only play on the grass and they loved it in the summer, and it’s better for the joints,” Ms O’Meara said.

    “And now those people aren’t playing.”

    An old rundown fence around a patch of empty grass.
    There are plans to build basketball courts opposite Ulumbarra Theater and Tom Flood Sports Centre. (ABC Central Victoria: Shannon Schubert)

    More green spaces

    Brian Westley, director of presentation and assets with the City of Greater Bendigo, said repurposing the grass courts was part of the Rosalind Park Master Plan.

    Under the plan, the courts will be turned into a ‘passive park’ or ‘green space’, with plans to build basketball courts on the site in the future.

    An artistic representation of garden space
    The Rosalind Park Master Plan shows the lawn will be converted into a ‘sunken garden’ with a basketball court built there. (Supplied: City of Greater Bendigo )

    “The Master Plan identifies in the long term, potential hardcourt basketball courts, as well as walking tracks and more gardens,” Mr Westley said.

    “We get lots of feedback from people wanting to see more walking tracks to people wanting to see more green space.”

    Mr Westley said through community consultation, council found residents wanted to see more parks.

    “One thing we heard really, really strongly from the community was a desire to have more green space, a desire to have more tree canopy.”

    “People also want places where they feel safe, and they can do more activities.”

    A brown brick building
    The old tennis club will be demolished as part of the council’s works to repurpose the area. (ABC Central Victoria: Shannon Schubert)

    Lawn courts ‘not needed’

    The City of Greater Bendigo said it’s worked closely with the Bendigo Tennis Association and determined they no longer need the courts.

    “At the same time been pretty significant investment into other courts that whether it be spring galley, Eaglehawk, Ironbark, as well as the new or relatively new complex out at Nolan Street,” Mr Westley said.

    Women standing on a blue tennis court.
    The midweek ladies competition preferred the grass courts to the new hard courts. (ABC Central Victoria: Shannon Schubert)

    The Bendigo Tennis Center complex opened in 2017 and has 26 hard courts, four of which are up to international standards.

    The center hosts several local midweek and weekend summer competitions, as well as international tournaments, state tournaments and regional competitions throughout the year.

    “We need to make sure that if assets are surplus, that we do decommission them.”

    “One of the other [issues] is they are challenging to keep in top condition.”

    “They require a lot of water, which is another challenge in today’s environment.”

    Fears older players will leave the sport

    Local veteran tennis players worry Country Week and Veterans Week will no longer come to Bendigo, because there are no grass courts.

    “They just played Country Week up at Swan Hill and they’ve got beautiful grass courts up there,” tennis player Pauline Gordon said.

    “A small country town like Swan Hill can maintain grass courts, but big city of Bendigo can’t…it just doesn’t make sense to me.”

    “If they kept the grass courts, they would be used.”

    A woman in a stripy top standing looking at the camera with a patch of unfenced, unmaintained grass in the background
    Pauline Gordon says older players from other towns now wont come to Bendigo to play tennis as there are no grass courts. (ABC Central Victoria: Shannon Schubert)

    After 30 years of playing midweek tennis, Joan Self will continue to play on the new hard courts, but some of her friends have left the competition.

    “People come up from Kyneton, they stopped coming.”

    The tennis lovers say it feels like the end of an era and they are sad to see Bendigo’s last lawn courts go.

    “In the summer the lawn courts just have that lovely atmosphere, the coolness, the trees you can sit under, and it’s just a lovely facility and it’s just very sad day when they go.”

    “A whole generation of younger people will never get to know how to play on grass courts.”

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