THE Bendigo Tennis Centre is scrambling to appease its members after a number of teams withdrew from competitions over a change in the fee structure.
It comes after the centre revealed financial sustainability concerns in an email to members.
“Quite simply a $6.2 million dollar tennis centre can't survive on $37,000 in membership income, it is financially not possible,” the email, sighted by the Bendigo Advertiser, stated.
Some teams in Thursday morning’s ladies midweek competition walked out without playing a set of tennis after learning they would have to pay a weekly fee, regardless of whether or not they had a match, significantly increasing the cost of their membership.
Another team withdrew ahead of the competition.
A direct debit system, inclusive of all competition fees, came into effect at the start of the week. Alternatively, members could pay six or 12 months’ fees upfront over the counter.
Members received an email on Friday evening acknowledging the changes had ‘caused considerable confusion’.
The new membership model will be offered alongside the weekly ball fees and annual membership structure.
Members will be consulted about the fee and membership structure for 2019/2020.
Match point for members
THE City of Greater Bendigo has defended the $6.2-million Bendigo Tennis Centre upgrade’s viability following concerns about changes to membership fees.
Council’s active and healthy lifestyles manager, Lincoln Fitzgerald said the project was designed to secure tennis tournaments, reduce the amount of infrastructure hired in temporarily to host tournaments and, as the region’s premier tennis facility, cater for long term growth.
“It is meeting all expectations,” he said.
“Following the completion of the grandstand later this year, it is expected the facility will be able to further attract major tournaments as well as continue to cater for functions on site”.
The Bendigo Tennis Association has committed to a $200,000 contribution toward the upgrade.
“An agreed payment plan is in place and the association is expected to meet the conditions of the agreement,” Mr Fitzgerald said.
“The Bendigo Tennis Association board is responsible for reaching income targets.
“If the association was experiencing hardship the city would provide support where possible.”
Heidi Addlem and her teammates withdrew from the ladies midweek competition earlier this week after learning a new membership model would require them to pay for weeks they didn’t play, including school holidays.
Several other teams walked out on the competition after arriving at the centre, ready to play, on Thursday morning.
It is understood they have all rejoined since the previous membership model was reinstated and presented as an option, alongside the new model, on Friday afternoon.
“We don’t think that you should have to pay if you’re not playing and we definitely don’t think we should be paying for no play in school holidays,” Mrs Addlem said before Friday’s developments.
Mr Fitzgerald said increasing membership income was not considered as part of the business case for the tennis centre upgrade, as it was the council’s preference to see sport as accessible as possible.
“These fees should not be solely relied upon to fund the association’s costs,” Mr Fitzgerald said.
Bendigo Tennis Centre general manager Dean Skrobalak apologised for any discontent changes to the membership structure had caused, via an email to members on Friday afternoon.
“Bendigo Tennis Association’s intent is to make tennis accessible for all, at an affordable cost, which will grow the participation of tennis in our region,” he said.
He acknowledged greater consultation should have taken place prior to any changes.
“We don’t want to lose those people,” Mr Skrobalak said.
“We value every member.”
Changes to the membership structure were detailed in an email to members in September, when renewals were due. However, Mr Skrobalak said some members ‘may not have seen the email’.
Another email was issued a day after the new fee structure came into effect.
Mr Skrobalak said centre, which last year had 560 members, was seeking to grow its membership to 1000 people.
“The total membership is too low – it’s not sustainable – for this type of facility,” he said.
“We can’t survive on that level of membership. We need to grow membership. The turnover of a place like this is way beyond that.”
Mr Skrobalak said the one-year-old centre’s running costs were high, compared with its predecessor.
“The power bill is three times more expensive than the other building,” he said.
The centre is also three times larger than the previous building, according to Mr Fitzgerald.
He said the centre, which is a council building, was designed to be efficient and met a range of sustainable design guidelines.
A number of income-generating features were included as part of the redesign, including the pro shop and cafe.
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