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How the economy is affecting tennis in Mercer County

March 31, 2009 07:20 PM

The business of tennis has shown some expected effects from the economic doom and gloom, yet there is much to feel good about. In checking with area clubs, a message of guarded optimism shines through.

 

“In the past 40 years, we’ve noticed that during economic downtimes, our business remains steady or improves,” said Donna DeLucia of Bucks County Racquet Club. “To our pleasant surprise, this current recession seems to be no different.”

 

Winning Touch Tennis has not seen any drop in business, and one of its three locations has actually seen an increase. President Bill Kurtain has mandated his staff to offer better value for its customers during these times.

 

“The tennis business is really a service business, and the state of the economy is requiring all business owners to increase/improve service,” Kurtain said. “Tennis seems to consistently offer people many lifestyle benefits; therefore, it remains a solid business.”

 

Princeton Racquet Club sees a continued decrease in daytime women as that contingent of the population goes back to work. The men’s programs have remained strong, and PRC is trying to create even more programs for them.

 

“We feel fortunate to provide a club for people to gather, enjoy each other’s company, and improve their physical  health,” said PRC co-owner Colleen Cosgrove.

 

An area situation aside from the economy has made court time more difficult than ever to obtain during the prime evening times. In December, Princeton Tennis Program assumed ownership of Princeton Indoor Tennis Center. This was a great move by the previously homeless PTP, which has always struggled to find enough courts to run its popular programs. On the other hand, many of the club’s long-time contract court owners have been displaced, a situation that executive director Gwen Guidice feels quite badly about but is unable to accommodate everyone. They even conducted a first-time lottery at the club to determine who would get the coveted seasonal court times for the 2009-2010 indoor seaason.

 

That left many players scambling to find other clubs.  Mercer County always conducts its own lottery for contract time and saw an increase in participation this year. Perhaps the overflow from Princeton Indoor had something to do with it.  In addition, Mercer’s spring junior lesson programs have 289 spots taken and 136 people waitlisted, and for adult lessons, 368 spots were snatched with 38 waitlisted.  As of Tuesday, 480 individuals had registered (that’s 605 spots) for the summer leagues. All in all, there is  no evidence of a recession at the new county indoor-outdoor facility.

 

Brad Werner of the active Pennsbury club is one of those getting increased calls, which he attributes partly to the Princeton Indoor situation. His business is steady, he remains optimistic, and he sees very little dropoff. “Some of the people taking two privates and a clinic may cut down to just one private, but they’re not giving up their tennis.”

 

Werner thinks that September will give us a better picture.  And David Benjamin, executive director of the Intercollegiate Tennis Association based in Skillman, thinks it’s early to be sure what will happen. The head of the governing body of collegiate tennis notes that college budgets are made a year in advance, and they are prepared for the worst in college sports. Even the ITA is in a deficit situation and hoping to raise an endowment to fund it. On the other hand, Benjamin believes that these times will generate more interest in tennis.

 

Nassau Racquet Club started an expansion a few years back that never would have been started in these times.  However, as a result, four new indoor courts just opened for business last week, and they’ve renovated a new 1,000 square foot area, and opened up a full-blown pro shop. Yet, as a gesture to their customers, they’ve held their prices in check.

 

“We’ll know more about the financial ramifications of this expansion by the end of the summer, but at least we still have a strong pent-up demand for court time. Our spring session for juniors is usually our lightest, and this year it’s the biggest session of any we’ve ever  had, said club manager Benton Camper.”

 

Liza Horan, editor of TennisWire.org and president of the US Tennis Writers’ Association, has surveyed players, and she had this to say. “Players told us they expect to participate in more tennis activities in 2009 than in 2008 by a margin of 5 percent. These results show that tennis is a lifestyle. The sport seems to be an integral part of their habits and happiness.”

 

 

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