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The use of tennis courts for overflow car parking has left university teams unable to run sufficient practices.
Due to a shortage in parking spaces, the courts are used for visitors’ cars on graduation and open days. As such, teams have no option but to cancel practices.
The courts are already in such a poor state that matches cannot be played on them. Instead teams must travel to Bowerham and pay to use the courts there.
“I think it’s shocking that we have tennis courts yet we can’t play matches on them,” said Sue Wynes, LUSU VP (Sports). “The surface is awful. Facilities have said they think acceptable but the club objects. They’re not acceptable to play BUCS matches on.”
In addition to poor surfacing the courts have no floodlighting, which limits the times they can be used for practice.
As well as encouraging the university to resurface the courts, Wynes tried to intercede in the matter of the car parking but failed. After receiving an email informing her that the courts would be used as a car park for Postgraduate Graduation Day on 9th December she sent a reply objecting strongly. Her only response from Facilities staff was a further email informing her that the courts would be used again on 2nd December for a Visit Day.
“I really don’t think it’s acceptable to do this. I know there’s a problem with parking but I don’t think that they should use sports facilities to park their cars on,” she said. “I argued against it but it wasn’t like I got a say in the matter.”
Wynes feels the issue shows how low sport is on the university’s agenda. “If they really cared about sports they would improve the actual facilities for the players who are currently here.”
She believes the university is reluctant to spend more money on sports by resurfacing the courts when it is currently investing £20 million in a new Sports Centre.
The university has only a limited amount of space for car parking and is prevented by council regulations from building any more, so the tennis courts have traditionally been used as overflow.
“We have always used the hard standing tennis courts for temporary parking on important University days such as Visitor and Graduation days,” Mark Swindlehurst, Director of Facilities, told SCAN. “Over the past six years we have been unable to secure more parking spaces on campus as we are restricted by the County Council Highways department. This is currently under review and we are awaiting approval from the authorities in 2010.”
Wynes, however, feels that this isn’t a good enough excuse. “I think it’s unacceptable that they’re palming off the problems they’ve had in parking onto the already big problems that we have with lack of sports facilities.”
The Sports Executive has discussed resurfacing the courts to bring them back up to match standard, and it is hoped this will happen before the completion of the sports centre in 2011. This raises the question, though, of whether they will be used as overflow car parks once money has been spent on their restoration.
“I have a feeling that once they’re resurfaced [Facilities] won’t want people to park on them,” said Wynes. “But parking problems will still be there. I don’t see what their plans are in the future.”
With facilities unacceptable for playing on there are concerns that Lancaster’s chances in Roses and other sporting competitions will be limited. The Roses tradition is that all events are held on campus so the courts will be in use then, despite being deemed unsuitable for BUCS matches.
“It’s going to be embarrassing at Roses, the courts are in such a bad state,” Wynes remarked. “I think our facilities have held back our teams.”
Poor courts will not only affect competition chances but their use as car parks may deter some students from studying at Lancaster.
“If you’re a decent tennis player who’s debating between two universities and find at one you’re parking on your tennis courts when you come for an open day, you’re not going to pick Lancaster,” said Wynes.
She feels that an improvement in facilities would increase Lancaster’s chances of winning Roses by attracting better sports players to the university.
“It wouldn’t have an instant effect on our rankings but gradually we’d start getting better tennis players and that would have a real effect,” she said.