Town of Newmarket taking over winter tennis management
Municipality estimates $113,000 in annual surplus possible from move, proceeding with one-year pilot
March 29, 2023
Newmarket tennis enthusiasts will experience a paradigm shift next winter as the town ousts a decades-long private provider to run its indoor facility municipally.
Council committee of the whole voted March 27 for a one-year pilot of public management of the new tennis facility when it's built in the new Shining Hill subdivision. This comes after a decades-long relationship with Tennis Clubs of Canada, which has run the current downtown courts privately during the winter. The decision was made despite some public opposition, with a Newmarket Tennis Club letter supporting private winter operation.
But with staff floating the possibility of an approximately $113,000 annual surplus if the town ran the facility in the winter, council opted to proceed with that option.
“We listen. We do want to make decisions that are in the best interests of our residents,” Councillor Victor Woodhouse said. “A big piece here is the fact a town-operated facility would generate a surplus, would generate some money for the town.”
With a new facility being built with developer dollars, the town has asked the tennis community about options for management. Current plans are for the Newmarket Tennis Club to continue operating the facility in the summer, as it has done for years.
The staff report recommending municipal management said staff has the expertise and it could result in a fee reduction for users.
“A surplus in excess of $100,000 annually could realistically be achieved. In essence, this type of surplus is exactly why private operators exist,” the report said.
Tennis Clubs of Canada CEO Adam Seigel presented to council, making a case for the public-private partnership to continue. The organization currently runs eight facilities, including Newmarket, during winter. He cited the staff report, which said a majority support the current provider, but a plurality spoke to wanting a public provider with issues around fairness and accessibility.
‘“The public-private partnership mode has been so successful,” he said. “Unlike other sports, such as soccer and hockey, there are various nuances to running a successful indoor tennis club .. . There’s a specific expertise required.”
The town should evaluate the situation by issuing an RFP for private providers and evaluate that against a town-run model, Seigel said. He added that with capital costs covered by a developer, fees at the new facility could be the same regardless of private or public management.
“A private provider would not be subjected to capital costs and would likely be in a position to provide the same pricing proposed,” Seigel said.
The Newmarket Tennis Club wrote in support of the Tennis Clubs of Canada and questioned municipal expertise.
“Our concerns in regards to this option (running it municipally in the wintertime) is the lack of experience the town may have in running a tennis facility, resulting in a possible decrease in program quality and losing that holistic tennis club-like feel,” club president Lisa Fung said in a letter. “We will of course work cooperatively with any company you choose for the winter tennis program.”
Director of recreation and culture Colin Service said the director of parks and facilities spent years directing operations at the Toronto Cricket Club and has plenty of expertise with air-supported tennis courts during winter.
Taylor raised considering it a one-year pilot and town council could then decide whether to go private, after people experience it.
“It would behoove us to at least try this approach for a period of time,” he said.
He also added to the resolution that the new facility at Shining Hill be called the Keith Davis Tennis Centre, as the current downtown facility is. That downtown facility will be removed to make way for more parking in the future.