Thursday, May 26, 2016

Big plans for reformed Tennis Club

It's almost a case of 'build it and they will come', except that Kilcullen Tennis Club is already built, writes Brian Byrne. It's just defunct. But not after last night.

"My gut feeling is that when we get going, people will flock to it," Eamonn O'Toole told the respectably sized and enthusiastic gathering in Fallons, called to try and get the Club back on its feet.

He outlined how far things had come since he first considered the project three years ago. Kilcullen Development Association — which supported the formation of the original Tennis Club in the same place back in the 1950s — has provided a terms-free loan of €24,000 to get things moving. A number of local businesses have pledged sponsorship amounting to several thousands of euro, and a development plan is in train to add two more courts, and a sheltered viewing area.

"At the moment, the club is not functioning," Eamonn said, adding the sobering thought that there's no insurance on the current courts for those who might be using them informally. "My idea is a complete regeneration, affiliation with Tennis Ireland, and to make it very much a key social part of the community. There will be tennis for all ages, social and competitive, and with four courts we would be in a position to compete in competitions like the Leinster League."

When the club is properly established, application will be made for further funding from organisations like Tennis Ireland and the Sports Council, and Eamonn said that he has already discussed this with Deputy Fiona O'Loughlin, who has considerable experience in this kind of community facilities development and is willing to help.

It is also planned to provide lighting, initially for the new courts, and later on the old ones, which will have to be moved to facilitate this. But all of that is 'down the road'. "We can't go any further without a committee," Eamonn told those present. There was an immediate positive response with many of those at the meeting putting up their hands to volunteer.

A local contractor has already been selected to carry out the initial refurbishment works on the two existing courts. Eamonn said he had hoped to have those courts up and running during the last month, but an issue with the rear boundary fence had to be dealt with first.

A planning application for the major development work will be submitted to Kildare County Council as soon as the club is fully operational. This will include a redesign of the existing entrance, which is very narrow.

It is envisaged that an eventual membership of around 300 is achievable.