'Dome' scheme to save tennis club calling time

BOSSES at Abbeydale Tennis Club hope a huge inflatable dome will keep the cash-strapped organisation afloat.

They're planning to use a covered airdome in the winter months to allow more play in bad weather.

The club, off Abbeydale Road South, has been losing members due to its outdated facilities, and managers say that if they don't do something soon the club could fold.

Plans for the airdome were approved at the Sheffield Council City Centre, South and East Planning and Highways Area Board.

Club bosses told the meeting they could only get a grant from the Yorkshire Lawn Tennis Association if planning permission was granted for the dome, and for four detached homes to be built on land in the grounds of the club.

Cash from the sale of the four homes will then be used to fund other developments such as re-building its clubhouse.

The double-skinned dome will go up between the months of September and April. The present two indoor and six outdoor courts will be reduced to four indoors and one outdoor - but the amount of actual playing hours should increase.

It is believed the airdome will produce 5,000 hours of playing time a year.

"For the improvements to happen they have to happen very quickly or the club will fold," said club boss Michael Wildblood. "Why is a club that produces successful players in trouble? The reason is not the players, it is the facilities.

"Last year the club lost 100 members. More than half cited poor facilities for it."

But David Green, a board member of Abbeydale Sports Club Ltd, said the plan represented "another nail in the coffin of first class cricket in Yorkshire" due to the loss of practice cricket nets.

Abbeydale Tennis Club, which is 79-years-old, has a proven track record for developing young tennis stars, with David Sherwood and Jonathan Marray, who reached the last 16 in the men's doubles at this year's Wimbledon, both learning to play at the venue.