Tennis courts

Bendigo residents mourn the impending loss of the town’s last grass tennis courts

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

The City of Greater Bendigo said it will begin removing fencing, reshaping slopes and ripping grass from the old Bendigo lawn lots on Barnard Street in the coming weeks.

Joan Self played on the grass courts in Bendigo for 30 years, but when she discovered that women’s midweek competition was moving to hard courts, she considered quitting.

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

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

“And Bendigo will not have grass courts.”

Joan and Belinda played on the Lawn Courts in Bendigo for decades before moving to the new tennis centre. (ABC Central Victoria: Shannon Schubert)

Belinda O’Meara grew up playing tennis on the grass courts in Bendigo and said it was devastating to watch them go.

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

It is feared that residents who had been playing for decades have now stopped playing as the competition has been moved to hard courts.

“There are a lot of older people who only play on grass and they love it in the summer, and it’s better for the joints,” Ms O’Meara said.

“And now these people are not playing.”

An old dilapidated fence around an empty patch of grass.
There are plans to build basketball courts in front of the Ulumbara Theater and the Tom Flood Sports Center. (ABC Central Victoria: Shannon Schubert)

More green spaces

Brian Westley, presentation and assets manager for the City of Greater Bendigo, said the repurposing of the grass courts is part of the Rosalind Park master plan.

As part of 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 the garden space
The Rosalind Park master plan shows that the lawn will be converted into a “sunken garden” with a basketball court built there. (Supplied: City of Greater Bendigo )

“The master plan identifies potential hard-surface basketball courts over the long term, along with walking tracks and more gardens,” Mr Westley said.

“We get a lot of feedback from people wanting to see more walking trails or people wanting to see more green space.”

Mr Westley said that through consultation with the community, the council discovered that residents wanted to see more parks.

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

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

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

Lawn courts “not necessary”

The City of Greater Bendigo said it was working closely with the Bendigo Tennis Association and determined it no longer needed the courts.

“At the same time, there have been quite significant investments in other courts, whether Spring Galley, Eaglehawk, Ironbark, as well as the new or relatively new Nolan Street complex,” Mr. Westley said.

Women standing on a blue tennis court.
Women’s midweek competition favored grass courts over 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 meet 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 have to make sure that if the assets are surplus, we decommission them.”

“One of the other [issues] is that they are difficult to maintain in perfect condition.”

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

Fears that older players will quit the sport

Local veteran tennis players are concerned that Country Week and Veterans Week will no longer come to Bendigo as there are no grass courts.

“They just played Country Week at Swan Hill and they have some nice grass courts there,” said tennis player Pauline Gordon.

“A small country town like Swan Hill can maintain grass courts, but the big town 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 striped top standing looking at the camera with an unfenced, unkept patch of grass in the background
Pauline Gordon says older players from other towns will no longer 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 quit competing.

“People come from Kyneton, they stopped coming.”

Tennis fans say it feels like the end of an era and they are sad to see the last grass courts in Bendigo disappear.

“In the summer, the grass courts just have this nice atmosphere, the coolness, the trees you can sit under, and it’s just a nice setup and it’s just a very sad day when they go there.”

“A whole generation of young people will never know how to play on grass pitches.”


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