2015 was a robust year for the tennis court construction industry, according to Andy Burrell, Managing Director of Chiltern Sports Contractors Ltd.
Burrell set up his construction business in 1997 and along with Trevor May Chiltern Sports is one of two British companies which specialises in tennis court construction. For reasons that are not particularly obvious, Burrell says business as a whole was buoyant in 2015, but describes this year as at best, “patchy”.
Private individuals who build tennis courts account for around 30% of Burrell’s business and one of the reasons that predictions for the year ahead are difficult to make is that there is no business cycle to this type of work. Other than awareness that when there is a good deal to be had some individuals come to market, Burrell says you cannot predict the number of projects that might happen in a year. The decision to spend somewhere in the region of £40,000 on a court can happen at any time.
The club sector accounts for around 40% of Chiltern’s projects and clubs are still undertaking capital projects. Burrell observes that many clubs are now resurfacing aging synthetic courts that are coming up to be renewed, following the growth in popularity of synthetic surfaces a decade ago.
“Clubs are getting grants and as long as the clubs put the grant application together and have a business plan that works, the LTA seem pretty up for loaning them money,” he said.
Local authorities and education projects make up the remaining 30% of Chiltern’s business and Burrell says that it is nursery and primary age schools that are most active among that market sector when it comes artificial grass landscaping or creating synthetic play areas.
In recent months the construction business as a whole has seen a slowdown. Some commentators say it is due to uncertainty in the market, perhaps in part due to the referendum on Britain’s membership of Europe. But Burrell wonders if it may also be symptomatic of a more general slowdown in the business.
“There are plenty of tenders around,” Burrell said, “but no one is making instant decisions and we have two major tenders that we won recently and both have stalled while they review funding issues.”
The good news is that the construction market is active all year round, in part due to milder winters. Chiltern will be operational for 12 months of the year, not just confined to months with better weather. The growth in synthetic surfaces is the other single biggest change that the business has undergone in the last 10 years.
With recent projects completed for clubs like The Avenue Club in Hampshire and West Hants Club in Bournemouth, Chiltern is still a busy company, and Burrell is also working in an informal arrangement with REBOWall, the brainchild of Adrian Hutchins. Burrell says that there are plenty of opportunities to work alongside the revolutionary angled wall that is being passionately marketed by someone who wants to grow the sport. Offering practice courts and practice walls may become a more important part of Chiltern’s business in future.
And according to Burrell growing participation with innovative tennis projects is key to the health of the construction business.