7 June 2023

Beaton Park is serving up a regional tennis hub for stars of the future

| Jen White
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Player about to serve a tennis ball while Wollongong Lord Mayor Gordon Bradbery, Tennis NSW CEO Darren Simpson and Wollongong Deputy Mayor Tania Brown watch on.

Wollongong Lord Mayor Gordon Bradbery, Tennis NSW CEO Darren Simpson and Wollongong Deputy Mayor Tania Brown take to the courts. Photos: Jen White.

Work is about to commence on a $12 million upgrade of the Beaton Park tennis courts, which will deliver eight international standard courts.

This marks the first stage of an overall upgrade of the sporting precinct and will transform the 14 new courts (10 hard courts and four synthetic grass) into a regional tennis hub.

Wollongong City Council and NSW Tennis representatives were onsite on Friday (2 May) with players and supporters to mark the start of work.

Tennis NSW CEO Darren Simpson said the expansion would include 10 new hard courts, eight of which would be to full International Tennis Federation standard, similar to Melbourne Park and Sydney Olympic Park. He hoped that this will help attract national and international talent to the region.

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“When we talk about the sort of tournaments and events that we could be bringing here, we could be talking about the next generation of players who you will see go on to conquer the world, hopefully playing tennis around the world,” Mr Simpson said.

“We’re very excited about what that means for Wollongong. Wollongong has an extremely rich sporting heritage as we know. And this facility is going to be the next step up from a tennis perspective.

“We know that there are other facilities that will come as part of the [Beaton Park] master plan, be it basketball, aquatics, etc. To be part of that and to be the first stage of that project, we’re delighted.”

Mr Simpson said the project was a great example of all levels of government working together, with funding provided by federal, state and local governments, as well as from Tennis NSW.

“Hopefully this time next year we’ll be back here again, playing on some brand new courts. The tennis centre will continue to run so people can still play tennis while the construction is going on. They’ll get more excited by the day looking at what they’re going to have to play on in about a year’s time.”

The first stage of work, which will primarily be the construction of the 14 new courts, is due to be completed in about 15 months. The second stage will comprise the ancillary facilities, including car parking, shade structures, spectator seating and new floodlights and pathways.

Wollongong Lord Mayor Councillor Gordon Bradbery said Beaton Park was a very significant location in the city for sports of various types and the new tennis centre would be a regional asset as well as an asset to the city.

“I remember we had the Federation Cup women’s groups down here quite a few years ago, and the Aussies played the Dutch – to experience that level of tennis in our city was a real highlight. It was also my opportunity to meet up with Ash Barty, and that still lingers in my mind,” he said.

“The opportunity is here for our locals to have a game of tennis, or to coach, to bring up the next talent to go on and represent our community, our state, our nation and internationally as well.”

Wollongong Council General Manager Greg Doyle said for the city to have the centre as not only a regional but a domestic asset for tennis was very exciting.

“Being able to invest in the health and wellbeing of our local community is really important, but also the opportunity for other people to come and visit the city and see all the assets and services that we have available to us,” he said.

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Complete Tennis coach Stuart O’Shannessy, who is based at Beaton Park, welcomed the upgrade.

“In the last 10 years these courts have outgrown themselves and we need this modern centre, as well as bigger courts to play bigger tournaments,” he said.

“We’ve got a rich tradition of having some up-and-coming pros and people like Andre Agassi, for example, who played here in the 80s and 90s, and Ash Barty, and we want to continue that tradition.”

Long-time Wollongong Tennis members Dorothy Lucas, Margaret Lynam and Jill Wilson have fond memories of the days when tennis was popular and the courts were always busy.

“I can remember when I was a ball girl for the likes of Mark Edmondson and John Newcombe,” Margaret said.

“They used to come down here and we’d have to put on a barbecue for them. We’d sit on the hill and watch.”

They said the new courts would help to revitalise the sport by providing a high-quality centre in a central part of the region.

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