Powell River’s indoor tennis courts are still operating and efforts are underway to expand membership.
Jeff Lynskey, president, Powell River Sport and Fitness Society, which operates Powell River Tennis Centre, said the organization has undergone transformation and efforts are underway to make the operation sustainable.
Initially, the tennis centre was a for-profit venture.
“We had a hard time getting enough people to make it profitable,” said Lynskey. “Last January the non-profit was created, which allowed the City of Powell River to give a permissive tax exemption. That really made a big difference for the viability of the club. Having said that, it’s still a bit nip and tuck.”
Lynskey said Powell River Community Forest has been generous in providing money for the tennis centre. The initial plan was to set up a fitness area. However, with the number of fitness outlets in Powell River, it wasn’t feasible to have a fitness centre within the tennis club.
Powell River Community Futures has also been generous, providing a loan to help advance the club in terms of the facilities offered, according to Lynskey. He said part of that process was bringing in a coach, which the tennis centre did for nine months.
“We just didn’t have enough members to make it feasible,” he added.
With the coach, 80 to 100 members are required to make it feasible. The club has about half that, but the belief is that now that there is not a coach, and with the permissive tax exemption, they are almost at the break-even point.
“We need about 40 members to cover all of our expenses,” said Lynskey. “Right now, we have enough in our account to keep us going into the fall when the memberships come. Most people join in the fall when the weather turns. If we gain enough membership, we’ll be quite sustainable at that point. We are within five or six members of being sustainable.”
Lynskey said up until now, the tennis centre has only had yearly memberships. He said a lot of people, if they do play casually, will just go to the tennis courts in the Townsite during the summer months. He said, however, that the tennis centre is offering a summer membership at a discounted rate, for singles or for families, to bring people in. People can play at the tennis centre on a pay-as-you-go basis, but Lynskey said he thinks membership is reasonable.
“Hopefully, people will come and enjoy it and want to carry on in the wintertime,” said Lynskey.
Lynskey said the tennis centre wants to attract more junior players, but the problem is not having a coach. He said there has to be enough volume of people to pay for a coach’s salary. His vision is that the tennis centre is now in a building stage, and if the club could get 50 to 70 members, then a part-time coach might be a possibility to help build the junior program.
“What we really need is a bunch of kids who are interested in playing, get a coach for them and bring along a whole junior program, because that is where the future lies,” said Lynskey.
He said tennis in Canada is gaining prominence on the world stage. Accomplishments of Bianca Andreescu last year, as well as some contenders on the men’s side, such as Milos Raonic, Dennis Shapavalov and Félix Auger-Aliassime, underscore the excellence of the nation’s tennis program.
“It’s hopefully going to inspire some young people,” said Lynskey.
He said the new executive of the sport and fitness society is working hard to ensure viability of the tennis centre.
“It would be a shame to let this go,” he added. “It’s a great old building.”
Lynskey said for a community the size of Powell River, it’s amazing that residents have the ability to play indoors. Powell River is the only city in the North Island region to have indoor courts.
“For us to be able to use this facility is stunningly wonderful,” added Lynskey.