Barnsley Tennis Club are celebrating the opening of their three new floodlit tennis courts after more than £500,000 was spent on a renovation project.

They believe the Wilthorpe site is now among the best in Yorkshire and could lead to the creation of top players from the town. Approximately £390,000 of Section 106 money went into the project while the club has contributed £120,000, which includes grants from the Lawn Tennis Association and Yorkshire Tennis as well as £80,000 of their money.

Whereas previously there were just four tarmac courts, two of which were floodlit, there are now three tarmac and four artificial grass courts, of which five are floodlit. Persimmon Homes built the courts, while they are also building houses on the nearby Oakland Gardens.

Club chairman Chris Day said: "Having been a four-court club for more than 100 years, this really is a momentous occasion in the club's history. We have always felt like the poor relation compared to Doncaster and Sheffield and other places, but now I honestly think our facilities are some of the best in Yorkshire. We were worried that the area around the club would be built upon and we would end up landlocked and potentially die as a club.

"We would have been left with four courts for 235,000 people because most if not all the courts in the parks in Barnsley have gone now. But we managed to get our MP Dan Jarvis on board, which was a real coup, and everyone at the council and Persimmon Homes have been really supportive."

Day is hoping to challenge tennis' perception as a middle class sport. He said: "I want it to be affordable to everyone and you can have an hour-long lesson at our club for £3. We do a lot of work in schools as well. We now want to increase our membership so that more people in Barnsley are playing tennis more often.

"We are a family-friendly club and have an excellent junior coaching programme with more than 100 juniors involved. We also have a large social section and, for the more competitive, we have several teams which cater for all standards of play. With these fantastic facilities, we believe the future of tennis in Barnsley is very bright and this project may well have laid the foundations for a future tennis champion from Barnsley."

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MP Dan Jarvis, who supported the scheme, added: "It has been very exciting to see Barnsley Lawn Tennis Club's ambitious plans for expansion come to fruition. Chairman Chris Day and his team should be extremely proud of all they have achieved. I look forward to supporting the club as they roll out plans to expand their membership and encourage more people, particularly juniors, across the borough to take up the sport."

The new courts were officially opened by the Barnsley Mayor Jeff Ennis who unveiled a commemorative plaque and cut the ribbon. Guests included Dan Jarvis, councillors Sharon Howard and Alice Cave and Paul Bennett and Paul Sheard of the Lawn Tennis Association.

Barnsley Council's Roy Miller, Cabinet Spokesperson for Place, said: "This is a great benefit for the local community and the wider Barnsley borough, as the result of Section 106 money from housing development. The council has big ambitions for housing growth, but where these larger developments take place, the developer is obliged to compensate the community for any loss of public space. The updated and improved tennis courts will help families enjoy keeping active and have fun. It will provide young people with the opportunity to flourish in the sport and I hope that this lays the foundations for them to achieve their potential."

Karen Follows, technical director at Persimmon Homes West Yorkshire, said: "We were delighted to be part of the official opening of the refurbished tennis club and new courts. We are almost halfway through building our nearby Oakland Gardens development and believe the new club's facilities are a wonderful asset that will benefit not only our customers but the community as a whole.”