National Tennis Centre slammed as £40m ‘white elephant’
The National Tennis Centre has damaged grassroots tennis, according to Andy Murray's former coach Mark Petchey, and it could go down as a £40 million "white elephant".
The facility in Roehampton in south-west London was opened by Queen Elizabeth II on 29 March 2007 as the high-performance training facility of the Lawn Tennis Association.
The centre was built following a 1999 review by the LTA into Britain’s sustained failure to produce world class tennis players but has been heavily criticised since it was built for giving a sense of entitlement to a select few while neglecting the grass-roots of the game.
Judy Murray famously said of the facility - which has 16 outdoor courts, six indoor courts and a gym and sports science and medical facilities - "If someone had given me £40 million I would have built 40 £1 million centres.
"It’s more important to grow the game than to stack it all at the top level.”
"I was always against the NTC being built where it was for the amount of money it was,” Petchey said in an interview with the BBC. "It's for a select few and we don't have enough players anyway.
"I felt unfortunately that it was always going to be a white elephant and it's proved to be. For me it was the last piece of the jigsaw puzzle, not the first piece. The first piece is to increase the base.
Roger Draper PA Sport
"I think had we at the time seen what was right, which was to build maybe 15 regional centres for £2m a pop - and clearly Scotland needs to have one if not two performance centres up here for their kids - we probably would be in a better situation than we currently are from a grassroots and performance level.
"What you want is a nice problem with too many kids, not too few. It was way too much money for the amount of people it was going to cater for."
The National Tennis Centre cost a reported £38 million when it opened in 2007 and has since closed as a base for Britain's elite players.
Great Britain's Andy Murray during a press conferenceReuters
"It is a camel of a building, a compromise between administrative offices on the one hand and tennis courts on the other, and the crucial point is that it has never smelled of hard work.”
Briggs himself said the building represented an "emphasis on superficial spin and sparkle" and that Draper "whose unpopular reign as LTA chief executive ended last year – saw it as the mother ship of British tennis, a temple of excellence where the chosen few would work together to achieve world-class results".
The 'white elephant' facility will remain the administrative headquarters of the organisation, but the only time elite players will be seen on its 22 courts will be for occasional training camps - that, sadly, says it all.