Starting a Tennis Club

R1FF

Professional
I really love tennis. I think I'll be a junkie the rest of my life. And I really hope my 18mo old daughter falls in love with it also. Unfortunately there are no indoor clubs near where we live and the weather here is pretty poor 6 months out of the year. So because of all this, I've been thinking...

Im gonna start researching the costs associated with starting up a club. I have some solid ways to raise capital and minimize certain buildout expenses.

But I thought I'd start a thread here to maybe get a head start on some stuff that I might overlook in the process. Any advice is welcome.

POSITIVES:
+ area has a huge tennis demand
+ buildout expenses for building can be done a very reduced costs
+ I have a background in business building/consulting/management (and a passion for the sport of tennis)

UNKNOWNS:
cost to build quality courts?
cost to maintain quality courts?
minimum ceiling height requirements to host sanctioned events?
 

BallBag

Semi-Pro
There's a smaller club/academy around here that was built inside of an existing warehouse. They have 3 courts and a training area. I always thought it was kinda neat. It's too small for a tournament but they could run 3 court league there.
 

Cindysphinx

G.O.A.T.
We used to have an indoor facility built inside of a warehouse. Three or four hard courts. Started by a Chinese (?) Teaching pro. Located in an industrial park.

Ceilings were always an issue, but only a little lower than a bubble.

I think it closed pretty quickly. I'm not sure why. Facilities were nice enough.

I think the economics cant be easy. There is a ton of demand in the winter, but many players people aren't willing to pay in the summers. In which case there is demand for a day here and there.

You have to compete with the county facilities and the country clubs.

We had a big private facility close a couple of years ago. 8 courts in two bubbles, plus outdoor courts. Clay. It made enough money to survive, but only just. The land was so valuable that the owner decided she didn't want to keep owning a tennis facility.
 

R1FF

Professional
We used to have an indoor facility built inside of a warehouse. Three or four hard courts. Started by a Chinese (?) Teaching pro. Located in an industrial park.

Ceilings were always an issue, but only a little lower than a bubble.

I think it closed pretty quickly. I'm not sure why. Facilities were nice enough.

I think the economics cant be easy. There is a ton of demand in the winter, but many players people aren't willing to pay in the summers. In which case there is demand for a day here and there.

You have to compete with the county facilities and the country clubs.

We had a big private facility close a couple of years ago. 8 courts in two bubbles, plus outdoor courts. Clay. It made enough money to survive, but only just. The land was so valuable that the owner decided she didn't want to keep owning a tennis facility.
The problem with most businesses in general is that they are passion projects. Think of restaurants in this regard...

person loves spaghetti
person can actually cook some great spaghetti
person thinks they are qualified to own a italian restaurant
person cant figure out why their restaurant failed and declares that a restaurant is a tough industry to get into

A passion for something makes for a great hobby, and means absolutely little when it comes to running a successful business of any kind. Loving what you do helps, but it cannot be your core competency. Most businesses that fail, do so, because the people running them dont have the skills required to run ANY business. It has very little to do with the actual viability of the business/industry they chose to get into. Take it from me, someone who has consulted for over 75 different businesses in the last 5 years. Believe it or not, I have never seen a business struggle from a lack of budget or passion. And all of them were in industries that were plenty healthy. Each and every time, it was a lack of management & business sense. Business owners dont like being told that, but it's the truth 99.99% of the time.

Most business owners cant get out of their own way. And there are many variables (poor decisions) that could cause a facility to shut down. As you said, you had two different indoor facilities close in your area and it appears that the quality of the facility wasnt the problem. That means it was a management issue.

The reason all of the indoor facilities in my area I just moved too are closed is because of land value as well. There is still a huge demand for tennis though. So I see the opportunity. Especially since weather is a problem most of the year. When it isnt raining for 6 months, the wind is pretty bad for a solid 3. So Im confident I wouldnt have to struggle to compete against all the nice country clubs.

Who knows though, maybe I'll work out the proforma and realize the economics dont work. And in that case I'll have to give up on this pipe dream.
 

Cindysphinx

G.O.A.T.
Oh, I believe you about why businesses fail. It takes just one misjudgment to kill a business.

I cant figure out how anyone makes a go of it.
 

RedBeard

Rookie
If I was starting a club and there weren’t enough indoor pickleball courts in my area, I’d be be all over making sure I could satisfy that demand and have pickleball in my plans.

In my area it’s an unstoppable wave. Not my thing, but he economics of getting more customers per square foot can’t be ignored.
 

R1FF

Professional
I wonder what the figure is for number of members that a single court could support if available 12 hours per day, in 2 hour blocks. Figuring most people would play doubles.
 

ollinger

G.O.A.T.
I know, I know. Just don't want to see someone lose their shirt with a tennis-only facility.
Many of the tennis facililties where I live in the northeast have converted entirely, or partly, to multipurpose facilities, particularly accomodating things like kids' soccer programs which seem to be a real money maker and bring in lots of customers. A 10 court facility that has always been popular now has 6 courts and a multisport area. Tennis only might be viable where you are, but you say there were facilities there before that closed............
 

OnTheLine

Hall of Fame
I certainly hope that your venture can turn into a successful reality!

My thoughts, not even worth $0.02:

Consider a bubble rather than a full building so that the club is viable in the summer months, would think it would be a much cheaper build/build-out .... Have 4 courts permanently bubbled year round, another set of 4+ that are un-bubbled for a cheaper summer price

Have enough courts to support league play. And enough for multiple teams. I know our area has a facility requirement for the number of league teams they can support based on the number of courts they have.

Have enough courts to support some junior tournaments .... I don't know what the number is but I am certain it is more than 4

I would not waste space on a pro shop aside from a stringer and carrying necessities like strings, OGs, and socks (surprised how many people need to buy socks at the club because they forgot theirs). The competition from places like TW on price and selection/sizing on everything else is too strong to have it likely be a decent profit center. I know of a lot of clubs that have eliminated their pro shop for anything except strings/stringing and some club logo-ed shirts/caps and the basics.

Don't install plexi-pave . I don't like that surface and I won't come to your club if you install it ... and I know you want me at your club :cool:
 

tomato123

Professional
My area has a few indoor facilities that all completely fill up on winter evenings, and I notice they all schedule tons of kids classes to fill up the courts during the warm weather seasons and off peak hours.

Best of luck!
 

R1FF

Professional
Just make sure you open the club in eastern Europe. Big interest in tennis, cheaper land, no pickleball.
I'd give anything to be back living in Europe again. I firmly believe I must move back there at some point if my daughter shows a competitive interest in tennis. Much more competitive atmosphere & training ground for talent. And the way y'all run your tournaments is much better than how we do it here.

The fact that you live in Europe very much explains our disagreement in the other thread. Social basketball is very different over there than in the USA. For some good reasons and others are just pointing out the differences, not better or worse.
 
The bread and butter is kiddy programs.
Kids take useless garbage clinics (and develop junk habits or learn nothing)
every day from like 4pm to 7pm. Prime time.

In tennis clubs, women outnumber men like 5 to 1.
The club will be dominated with females all morning and afternoon
 

lilac8bd

New User
We used to have an indoor facility built inside of a warehouse. Three or four hard courts. Started by a Chinese (?) Teaching pro. Located in an industrial park.

Ceilings were always an issue, but only a little lower than a bubble.

I think it closed pretty quickly. I'm not sure why. Facilities were nice enough.

Fyi.........the tennis center to which you are referring is alive and thriving. His primary interest is growing tennis among Asian youth and he backfills open court time with adult opportunities.
 

BallBag

Semi-Pro
Fyi.........the tennis center to which you are referring is alive and thriving. His primary interest is growing tennis among Asian youth and he backfills open court time with adult opportunities.
I thought so. I think we are all talking about the same place. I'm pretty sure the other place that closed down is the Four Seasons.
 

norcal

Hall of Fame
The pricing is interesting.

What do y’all usually pay for court time or membership dues?
If I played in a 'wintery' state I would absolutely pay that rate to play in the winter.

@R1FF - is that somewhat in line with what you are thinking?
 

R1FF

Professional
If I played in a 'wintery' state I would absolutely pay that rate to play in the winter.

@R1FF - is that somewhat in line with what you are thinking?
Im thinking of a multi tier model. Give options.

Higher tier members pay a large yearly fee. No court fees, access to premium amenities, and a few other perks.

Regular tier members would pay a small monthly fee. Plus court fees. My proforma has it set at $20/hr.

Im going to hire a consulting firm to do a market research study & feasibility analysis on the project to make sure all my metrics are accurate.

I found the $32/hr at the club in MN that was posted interesting because at the rate I play, I’d go broke with all the hours I spent at the indoor courts of my old club. Membership there was less than $100/mo and offered unlimited court time. But reserving a court was problematic and the facilities were in serious disrepair.
 

OnTheLine

Hall of Fame
Im thinking of a multi tier model. Give options.

Higher tier members pay a large yearly fee. No court fees, access to premium amenities, and a few other perks.

Regular tier members would pay a small monthly fee. Plus court fees. My proforma has it set at $20/hr.

Im going to hire a consulting firm to do a market research study & feasibility analysis on the project to make sure all my metrics are accurate.

I found the $32/hr at the club in MN that was posted interesting because at the rate I play, I’d go broke with all the hours I spent at the indoor courts of my old club. Membership there was less than $100/mo and offered unlimited court time. But reserving a court was problematic and the facilities were in serious disrepair.
On a business trip I went to a club that had packages of court hours. IIRC the non-package price was $28/hour and then the 5 hour package was $25/hr a 10 hour was $22 and a 25 hour was $20 ... They had to be used within 30 days of purchase ... which means that a bunch of hours probably got collected and never used .... big win for the club but still a good deal for the player who actually used their packages.

I am glad I live somewhere I can play outdoors year round .... or I would be flat broke.
 

R1FF

Professional
On a business trip I went to a club that had packages of court hours. IIRC the non-package price was $28/hour and then the 5 hour package was $25/hr a 10 hour was $22 and a 25 hour was $20 ... They had to be used within 30 days of purchase ... which means that a bunch of hours probably got collected and never used .... big win for the club but still a good deal for the player who actually used their packages.

I am glad I live somewhere I can play outdoors year round .... or I would be flat broke.
You and me both brotha!!! I never realized how good I had it at my old club until seeing these court fees that exist everywhere.

Apparently tennis people are happy to pay it though. And the area Im looking into this can afford it.

Anything I can do to create a place for other tennis junkies like myself to play year round tennis, I wanna create. Especially if my daughter eventually gets addicted also. No better way to save on court time than by owning the court! hahaha
 

jhick

Hall of Fame
Im thinking of a multi tier model. Give options.

Higher tier members pay a large yearly fee. No court fees, access to premium amenities, and a few other perks.

Regular tier members would pay a small monthly fee. Plus court fees. My proforma has it set at $20/hr.

Im going to hire a consulting firm to do a market research study & feasibility analysis on the project to make sure all my metrics are accurate.

I found the $32/hr at the club in MN that was posted interesting because at the rate I play, I’d go broke with all the hours I spent at the indoor courts of my old club. Membership there was less than $100/mo and offered unlimited court time. But reserving a court was problematic and the facilities were in serious disrepair.
I play in MN at a small tennis only facility. Monthly single membership is around $30/month. Family Membership at just under $50/month. Court time is $22/hour with a discounted bargain court time of $7/person for up to 1.5 hours of play after 8:30 pm on weekdays or after 6 pm on weekends. Club is open to the public for another $8 guest fee.

One thing you'll have to figure into your costs is resurfacing which you'll need to do periodically. The courts at the club I belong to have been resurfaced a couple of times in the 9 years I've been here.
 

OnTheLine

Hall of Fame
I play in MN at a small tennis only facility. Monthly single membership is around $30/month. Family Membership at just under $50/month. Court time is $22/hour with a discounted bargain court time of $7/person for up to 1.5 hours of play after 8:30 pm on weekdays or after 6 pm on weekends. Club is open to the public for another $8 guest fee.

One thing you'll have to figure into your costs is resurfacing which you'll need to do periodically. The courts at the club I belong to have been resurfaced a couple of times in the 9 years I've been here.
Those are good prices for indoor ... is that the club by Fort Snelling per chance?

My outdoor club resurfaces every 24 months .. I would guess indoor may need it less often, although would still lose texture with use even without sun/rain.
 

jhick

Hall of Fame
Those are good prices for indoor ... is that the club by Fort Snelling per chance?

My outdoor club resurfaces every 24 months .. I would guess indoor may need it less often, although would still lose texture with use even without sun/rain.
Rochester
 

kelkat

Rookie
We have an 8 court indoor facility here in Nor Cal. they could probably use another 4 courts as well. It get's plenty hot here too, so they are used often in the summer.
 

R1FF

Professional
If you love playing tennis, then my guess is if Tennis becomes your job, you’re not gonna love it so much.
Definitely always must be taken into account.

But as they say, do what you love and you never work a day in your life right?

Or look at it this way, I'd rather take my chances doing a job in a industry I love than doing one in a industry I dont. Until I win the lotto, I gotta work either way.

Either way it pans out Im happy. If it guarantees my daughter unlimited court access, that's the win here.
 

Turbo-87

Legend
I think you have to be able to offer more services to members so you can generate more income especially the outdoor months. Our club has 6 indoor courts and 6 outdoor courts. Yes, court time drops in the summer because we have a large selection of public courts that are kept extremely well. The club converted some courts and more land to sand volleyball courts and that brings in a ton of money with league play and beer sales. That allows the club to offer us an $80 pass from Memorial Day to Labor Day for all of the court time you want, indoor or out. The problem is that the outdoor courts are in need of a resurface so we still prefer to go to a new public court unless it is raining.
 

Flootoo

Rookie
Hi

I wish you the best with setting up your club.
Have you considered ways of ensuring that the same surface can be used for different sports?
It isn't ideal, and it doesn't look pretty, but I always had a huge number of lines in different colors on my one indoor tennis court. It never was as hard as I thought it would be to adjust mentally.

This means that you can host volleyball , badminton, netball, etc in the same space. Perhaps on just one court? I mean one of the courts you've got.
 
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Lex

Semi-Pro
Another consideration is attracting a good Pro and what his/her cut will be for lessons. They can drive participation and new business.
 
I know, I know. Just don't want to see someone lose their shirt with a tennis-only facility. The tennis player in me hears the shrill sound of wiffle balls and cringes, but the businessman in me sees $ signs...and a giant sound deadening curtain to mute the pickleball noise.
Pickleball is horrible but Padel is amazing. I'm surprised Padel hasn't made much of a leap in the US... Very similar to Tennis but easier for beginners, and it actually helps your tennis game
 

R1FF

Professional
@R1FF
Would you ever build a single court as a test run ?
No. Im not sure what information that single court would provide me.

The metrics show that each court can hold about 175 members. And 175 (from just a single court) isnt enough to cover the expenses of the entire facility.

8-12 courts might be ideal for leagues & events. But then the cost of the facility grows too much to manage.
 
Consider at least one "CLASSIC CLAY", the astro-turf mixed with sand from an Australian company, It's amazing in the rain! You won't need a bubble, the more it rains the harder it gets. Unlike clay, it doesn't pond when the rain gets heavy, it just gets harder. You can play for hours with the same can of balls because unlike other surfaces the sand wicks them dry. Savvy players know to run to that court when it starts raining--almost as much fun as playing in the mud! 3.0 and belows hate it because they fear "slipping" on it--but they're the same ones who can't figure out how to close a gate. Saw one laid down in a week-end like a roll of carpet by an installer once. It's one of the best surfaces for all purposes, you can slide on it like clay, grass without the maintenance, lasts forever, play in the rain, and easy on the joints. One of these and you don't need indoor courts. I don't work for this company.

 
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Flootoo

Rookie
Consider at least one "CLASSIC CLAY", the astro-turf mixed with sand from an Australian company, It's amazing in the rain! You won't need a bubble, the more it rains the harder it gets. Unlike clay, it doesn't pond when the rain gets heavy, it just gets harder. You can play for hours with the same can of balls because unlike other surfaces the sand wicks them dry. savvy players know to run to that court when it starts raining--almost as much fun as playing in the mud! 3.0 and belows hate it because they fear "slipping" on it--but they're the same ones who can't figure out how to close a gate. Saw one laid down in a week-end like a roll of carpet by an installer once. It's one of the best surfaces for all purposes, you can slide on it like clay, grass without the maintenance, lasts forever, play in the rain, and easy on the joints. One of these and you don't need indoor courts.
Wow. Our problem is 40C in by ten in the morning plus humidity from hell. Playing at night in July, I need to change my socks twice. I've been pushing for a pillar-supported roof but it isn't going anywhere.

Maybe an inflatable "blanket laid across the courts in the daytime might help it stay a little bit cooler?
 

Cashman

Hall of Fame
That's insane. No wonder tennis is dying in America. Court rates here are generally $15AUD/hr during the day and $20AUD/hr under lights. So what's that - $10-15 USD? I'm so glad I live somewhere that indoor courts are unnecessary.

The other thing I found annoying about the US is the lack of variety. In Australia you get a good mix of surfaces (although the southern states don't have a lot of grass, and the northern states don't have a lot of clay).

I have all four major surfaces within a short drive of my house, which is great. I play most of my matches on grass or carpet, which is great for my game - the lack of proper fast courts in the US would kill me.
 
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Bluefan75

Professional
That's insane. No wonder tennis is dying in America. Court rates here are generally $15AUD/hr during the day and $20AUD/hr under lights. So what's that - $10-15 USD? I'm so glad I live somewhere that indoor courts are unnecessary.

The other thing I found annoying about the US is the lack of variety. In Australia you get a good mix of surfaces (although the southern states don't have a lot of grass, and the northern states don't have a lot of clay).

I have all four major surfaces within a short drive of my house, which is great. I play most of my matches on grass or carpet, which is great for my game - the lack of proper fast courts in the US would kill me.
That is New York, mind you. I bet things are much more expensive in Melbourne or Sydney than in a run of the mill town in Australia as well. Plus New York has a third of the population of Australia in about 300 square miles. Australia is about the same size as the continental US. Comparisons are just not valid frankly.

The indoorpublictennis link a post above is a better comp.
 
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