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18 August 2011, 12:47
It's going to be October before tennis fans will be able to play again at a sports centre hit in an arson attack.
A fire at the Batchwood Golf and Tennis Centre in St Albans on Wednesday 10 August 2011 has completely destroyed the main building. St Albans District Council say they've got to demolish what's left of it before players can come back.
The Council are hoping to put up a 'bubble cover' over three of the centre's outdoor courts to create an air hall that will allow tennis to be played indoors, but that won't happen until October 2011. Golfers are still able to use the centre, and a summer outdoor tennis programme has been moved to Clarence Park.
Arrangements are also being made so Batchwood Gym members can use other St Albans Council gyms. Although the gym building at Batchwood hasn't been badly damaged, the Council have been unable to reopen it because it's no longer connected to water, gas and electricity as a result of the fire. Access routes to the building have also been severely affected.
Cllr Mike Wakely, Portfolio Holder for Sports and Leisure at St Albans City and District Council, said "I would like to thank everyone for their continued support during this difficult time, including the emergency services, officers and the neighbouring Batchwood nightclub.
"The Council is working with our partners to do all we can to ensure that local people and clubs continue to have access to sports facilities either at Batchwood, or if that is not possible, elsewhere in the area. I am pleased to say that people can now play golf again at Batchwood and soon tennis players will also have the opportunity to resume play at the site.
"We understand that these measures offer a temporary solution only. However, we have begun talks with our partners about plans to rebuild new facilities at Batchwood to replace those destroyed by the fire. Following a meeting on Monday, we have already secured technical support from the Lawn Tennis Association to help progress these plans."
Roger Draper, the Chief Executive of the Lawn Tennis Association, has written to Cllr Julian Daly, Executive Leader of the Council to confirm support for the continuation of tennis at Batchwood.
In his letter, Mr Draper said “this centre has a very strong link with the Lawn Tennis Association as it was the first ‘Indoor Tennis Initiative’. Batchwood was built in partnership between the LTA, [the Council] and other partners to provide indoor tennis opportunities for the public without having to be a member.
"Over the last twenty years this tennis centre has provided the platform for … an excellent team of 19 coaches delivering a range of activities, from an impressive schools and community programme seeing over 5,000 children a year through to being one of only 19 High Performance Centres across the country.
"The purpose of this letter is to confirm how important the centre and team is to the LTA and our national tennis development and performance programme in providing a base and expertise to players and additionally in coach education and as a tournament venue.
"We would be extremely keen for indoor tennis to again be provided on this site."
Anyone who needs more information about sport at Batchwood following the fire can call the Batchwood Team who have set up a temporary base at St Albans Westminster Lodge Leisure Centre on 01727 844250.