Community fears loss of suburban tennis as land sold for affordable housing purposes

Skyrocketing land values and Hobart’s housing squeeze will likely see one of the state’s oldest sporting clubs sold off to the State Government.

The New Town Catholic Tennis Club and its two clay courts were put up for sale by the Catholic Archdiocese of Tasmania earlier this year.

It’s understood the State Government, through Communities Tasmania, is in the process of negotiating to buy the site for social and affordable housing.

The club has stood for almost 100 years.

“It’s going to be a great loss to the community,” long-time member Claire Irwin said.

“We have different sorts of members here, different sorts of people, and they all come for fun, sport and a sense of community”.

The club holds a particularly special place in the hearts of Ms Irwin and her husband Jeff.

Their romance blossomed at the club in 1986 and eventually led to marriage.

“We were good friends for years and years and after seven years he asked me to marry him,” she said.

Mr Irwin said the social aspect of the small — but popular — club would be missed.

“I met my wife here, and we had very strong teams here over the years,” he said.

“Soon after I joined, [the club] celebrated [its] 75th anniversary. There is a good membership here, and very social. Lots of people turn up to play tennis here.”

New Town boasted what is believed to be the last clay courts in Hobart.

“These would be the last of the clay courts. The rest are all synthetic now,” Mr Irwin said.

Premier Peter Gutwein said he understood negotiations to purchase tennis courts were underway.

“I believe it is Communities Tasmania’s intention to build social and affordable housing on one of those sites,” he said.

“Importantly, what we want to do is to get roofs over people’s heads.”

Claire and Jeff Irwin said their romance blossomed at the tennis club in 1986, and eventually led to marriage.(ABC News: Chris Rowbottom)

Prime land, in perfect places

Tennis clubs and courts which are often located in lucrative suburban areas are being eyed off by investors and developers.

Recently, a private 850-square-metre court in Lindisfarne was sold for $600,000 to a local who intends to build on the block.

Another former court in Lindisfarne is also up for sale on the exclusive Esplanade.

The flat former courts are perfect for developers and private builders keen to snap up inner-suburban land during a housing squeeze.

Last year, Tennis Tasmania conducted an in-depth audit of its facilities for the first time, which will be used as its benchmark for years to come.

In 2014, rising rents meant the members of the St Therese’s tennis club were forced out of their Moonah base.

The courts remain, but the club was forced to relocate to the Domain Tennis Centre.

A lock on a tennis court gate.
Some fear the demise of the humble suburban tennis court could hurt the game.(ABC News: Chris Rowbottom)

Kids need local courts to hone their skills

There are fears the demise of the humble suburban tennis court could hurt the grassroots game in Tasmania.

Tasmanian tennis great Simon Youl grew up honing his serve and volley at the Hart Street tennis centre in Launceston.

In 2008, the club sold off half its courts to fund a clubhouse upgrade and refurbishment of the remaining courts.

He said it was vital that suburban and local courts remain untouched.

“It’s pretty sad, and sad for a lot of the members that are part of those tennis clubs to see some of those clubs going,” he said.

“Let’s redevelop the clubs we have and grow them and make them incredible places.”

Youl said the game was in good shape and was keen to see a further emphasis placed on the development of young players.

“One of the very important things in Tassie is that we grow the grassroots. We don’t have a lot of players who are 10 to 18 [years old] who are playing the tournaments,” he said.

The ABC contacted the Archdiocese of Hobart for comment.

Simon Youl playing tennis.
Simon Youl believes it is vital that suburban and local courts remain untouched.(Supplied)

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