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“There were a lot of setbacks and frustrations.” You’d be forgiven for thinking Kevin Wilkinson might have lost some of his enthusiasm for tennis over the past six years. Battles to get planning permission and funding to put tennis courts into the village of Alrewas have consumed the group who first came together to develop the the idea back in 2009. But as they prepare to welcome a Blue Peter presenter for the official opening on Sunday (May 31), it seems that seeing their dreams come true has merely re-ignited their desire to contribute to the area’s sporting pedigree. “It’s gone from nothing but a piece of wasteland to a set of fully functioning tennis courts,” Kevin said. “The frustrations and setbacks aren’t worth boring everyone about now, but it’s great to see those courts finally being used.” The thought of a tennis club in leafy village will immediately serve up thoughts of Wimbledon whites, club blazers and an elite membership. But Kevin insists Alrewas Tennis Club has no intention of following the traditional path of exclusivity. No, this is very much a club developed by the community for the community. With free sessions in the day during the week since the first ball was served on May 1 and no membership fee, the chairman makes a strong case for his argument that things will be different on these courts. “From the start we decided we wanted to make it a facility for everyone,” he explained. “Quite early on we turned our ideas away from the traditional set up of a tennis club where you charge a high annual membership and get mainly serious tennis players joining. “We wanted it to be something everyone in the village could use. “There’s a really strong community in Alrewas and a really strong sporting community that we wanted to tap into. “When we did the numbers, we realised that because we’re getting the land from the parish council for a peppercorn rent, and because we’re next door to the cricket club so we don’t have the massive overhead of premises, we’ve got a low operating cost. What that means is we can actually offer free play. “Monday to Friday during the day, members can turn up and play for nothing, then at evenings and weekends we charge £5 an hour. That’s enough to keep us financially viable.” And the sums are adding up already with people giving tennis a try. “We’ve been open for a month and have 80 members,” Kevin said. “In a small village that’s not bad, and we’re growing all the time. It’s not even the tennis season yet, either. “There’s also been engagement with All Saints Primary School, the local scouts and the guides to offer them the facility as part of their programme too. “The cubs have already used it as part of their badge scheme.” Even the official opening ceremony has been geared to the club’s sense of inclusion. The morning and afternoon have been tailored to get as many people as possible involved. “It’s going to be a nice day,” Kevin said. “We’re doing it as a themed Victorian fete in the morning to attract people who aren’t so much into the sport side, but are part of our community – we want to bring everyone together for the celebration. “Then we’ve got the official opening by Radzi Chinyanganya from Blue Peter, which we’re really pleased about. “In the afternoon we’ll be doing things on the tennis courts, coaching and fun stuff. “These courts are something that’s been needed in the village for a while. “Six years ago when we started on this journey, people used to say it was the one thing we haven’t got that we probably should have. “Now we’ve got it people are making good use of it.” More details about the club and the official opening are available on the Alrewas Tennis Club website.
Six years of hard work in a small community will come to fruition this weekend as Alrewas Tennis Club celebrates its official opening. LichfieldLive spoke to chairman Kevin Wilkinson to find out whether plans to serve up a sporting dream were worth it…