The Northwood Community Centre is looking to pour a whole lot of asphalt on its 23 acres of grounds — about $150,000 worth of it, in fact.
The centre is starting to raise the money it needs to repave its three tennis courts and add a new basketball court just behind its clubhouse at 1415 Burrows Ave.
"If your tennis courts are in good shape, people are going to play on them. If you’ve got a basketball court, people are going to play on it," said club premises manager Curtis Kazuk.
It’s an ambitious and steep goal for the small club in Shaughnessy Park — repaving the tennis courts alone will cost the club $125,000, and adding the basketball court will be another $35,000.
Heavily used, the tennis courts are a relic from 1953, when the centre was first established in the community, Kazuk said. They need to be fixed to prevent water from pooling and cracks from widening and creating safety hazards for players.
The club has paid for maintenance of the courts over the years with little help from the city or from the neighbouring Sisler High School and Winnipeg School Division, Kazuk noted.
"We want to get the public aware that everything that happens at the centre, the city doesn’t pay for it," Kazuk said, adding tennis courts are a low priority for sports grants available in the city.
The club does receive a yearly operating grant from the city, based on the number of residents in its catchment area. However, because half the club’s catchment area is swallowed up by the Inkster Industrial Park, the club doesn’t receive as much money as nearby, smaller clubs like Tyndall Park, Kazuk said.
Ultimately, the money the club receives isn’t enough to run the centre for a full year — the electricity bill alone is about $24,000 a year, past president George Vanderlip says — and so the club relies heavily on its canteen and bingo to top up its revenues.
"The public thinks community centres are all funded by the city and that I get paid. Everyone on our board is a volunteer," Kazuk said.
According to Mark Arndt, executive director of Tennis Manitoba, about 80% of tennis players in Winnipeg play on public access courts like Northwood’s. However, he considers only about 24 of the city’s 130 courts safe for players.
Arndt understands the constraints of the city’s budget, but argues the city could cut the number of public courts in half in an effort to keep them better maintained.
Though building a court is expensive, tennis itself is a cheap sport to get involved in.
"If you’re a five-year-old starting out in tennis, you can get a very good racket for $20, some tennis balls for $5, go to a public court and away you go," Arndt said.
"Tennis is a sport for a lifetime. It’s not bruising, where you’re going up against somebody and hitting somebody, and getting a concussion. You’re active from three to 93 if you want to be."