Awapuni Tennis Club History:
In the years following World War 2 the western suburbs of Palmerston North developed rapidly, during which around 2.5ha of land was set aside by the Palmerston North City Council for recreation in the Awapuni suburb, located largely away from the main roads.
A proposal to construct tennis courts led to a public meeting to be held at Awapuni School hall in Rochester Street on 15 February 1972 with the aim of forming a tennis club. Both adults and children were invited. A steering committee was subsequently formed which aimed to draw attention of local people to the proposed new council-owned facility and generate interest in becoming members.
The courts were expected to be ready for play in early 1973, but construction delays meant that no tennis was actually played on them until December of that year. A community centre was also constructed, extended to its current configuration by 1988.
The club was then known as Awapuni Park Tennis Club, with the first annual general meeting held at the Awapuni School hall on 29 October 1973, chaired by David Gordon while Shirley Heaphy was appointed secretary, replacing the first person to hold that post Carol Dench, who had left the city.
The whole park, including the tennis club would be managed by a park management committee, with representatives from the club appointed to it. This committee received a grant of $1,550 from the Ministry of Sport and Recreation which it gave to the tennis club to provide poles and nets for the courts. There were four courts, and there was a vision to increase this to six courts at a later date and in the longer term to introduce floodlighting. The courts were constructed of rice bubble concrete.
There were 93 family names recorded as wishing to join the club, some of which had several members. By the 1974 annual general meeting there were 130 members, which included mid-week groups and junior coaching on Saturdays. A committee had been formed and during that first year a constitution for the club was prepared.
For at least the next ten years, the club’s membership hovered around 150, which included the mid-week group and juniors, who played on Saturday mornings, receiving coaching from John Salisbury. Senior club play took place on Saturday and Sunday afternoons, while at other times the courts were available for public use.
The popularity of the courts took its toll on the surface, which required ongoing maintenance. They were resurfaced progressively in 1983 and 1984 with Astro Turf, which was more robust and suited to weather conditions that prevail in this region. Again, after maintenance issues arose, they were resurfaced again at intervals with newer and higher quality Astro Turf as the need arose.
The practice wall, or volley board as it is referred to in some documents was established during 1977 with the tar seal run back established shortly after.
In April 1986, a new constitution was drafted, which included a proposal to make the club’s official name ‘Awapuni Tennis Club’ dropping the word ‘Park’. The new constitution took effect at the annual general meeting of 27 September 1986.
Submissions were made to the council to have two additional courts constructed, in 1986 and 1993, but to no avail. Similarly, there were discussions in 1987 and 1993 about installing floodlights, but these also came to nought.
From January 1988 the Manawatu Veterans’ Tennis Club relocated to the Awapuni Courts, where its members played on Sunday mornings, and they continue to use the courts for their activities, now known as Manawatu Seniors Tennis Club.
The early 1990s heralded a significant reduction in Awapuni Tennis Club members for a variety of reasons, including:
Changes in retail trading hours which lead stores and businesses to be open at weekends, coupled with the need for more people to work at the weekends, giving them less time to be involved in sport
The increasing popularity of other sports and interests at the expense of tennis; and
The introduction of video and electronic games, plus a vast increase in the number of television channels, particularly those showing sports from around the world.
Junior tennis ceased around 1995 because there were no volunteers available to coach children. Adult numbers dropped from around 50 in the mid-1990s to around 35 in the early years of the 21st century. Club competitions also ceased at the end of the 1990s with the emphasis remaining on social tennis, supported by an ageing membership profile.
In 1999 the Awapuni club, in conjunction with the Manawatu Veterans’ club approached the Palmerston North City Council to try and have two additional courts constructed. By this time there were fewer tennis players generally in the district, and with its finances already strained, the council did not consider that construction of two further courts at Awapuni was warranted.
During the early years of Awapuni Tennis Club, several members participated in various tournaments and inter-club events, which required those people to pay an affiliation fee. At no time has the club itself been affiliated, although it was considered by members in 1986, even going as far as to put it to a vote. The majority were opposed to affiliation. The Manawatu Tennis Association, now known as Tennis Manawatu have encouraged the club at different times to consider affiliation, but the club has chosen to remain independent, just as its original founders envisaged. It was a club that would continue to welcome everyone of differing abilities, and with social tennis being the order of the day.
Junior coaching at tennis in the mid-1970s, taking place roughly where the practice wall and run back are now situated.
Awapuni Tennis Club’s official opening day 13 July 1974. The picture shows the community centre as originally constructed. Photo credits: Manawatu Standard and Stuff Limited.
Awapuni Tennis Club’s official opening day 13 July 1974. Photo credits: Manawatu Standard and Stuff Limited.
The courts photographed in 1993 when submissions were made to increase the number of courts.