Your Serve: Turning It All Around
With some creative restructuring and reaching out to the local community, a private club’s tennis courts are generating revenue.
By Greg Kleiner, Director of Tennis, Continental Country Club
Here’s a problem that’s probably all too familiar in today’s economy: a country club facing bankruptcy. In my case, at the Continental Country Club in Flagstaff, Ariz., where I’m the director of tennis, our tennis program was losing more than $10,000 a year.
Game over? Not really. There’s a simple-sounding solution: Reduce spending and increase revenue.
OK, so how can you do that? Well, I began turning the tennis situation around at my club by changing the employment structure for the tennis pro, then we increased our memberships and got creative with our court time.
The Continental Country Club is a seasonal tennis program, running from May to October. We received virtually no income from tennis, and the sport was looked on as merely an amenity for our club members. Our tennis pro received a salary, plus 100 percent of his lessons.
I started by reworking the pro’s position, making him an independent contractor and splitting his lesson and clinic income: he kept 80 percent, and the club took 20 percent. Naturally, he was unhappy at first, but he accepted the new arrangement because he understood the fiscal state the club was in. This was the start of the concept that tennis could be revenue-generating for our club.
The second phase was to increase membership by selling tennis memberships to non-club members, which increased usage of the courts. As someone who has been active in the tennis community for over 30 years, I was also aware that USTA Leagues had grown in our area, and often they lacked the courts for home matches. Since club members used our courts almost exclusively in the mornings, I rented courts to the USTA for league play in the afternoons.
The club also sponsored USTA teams by creating a corporate rate. The business model of having the tennis courts used only by members meant the courts were unused a majority of the time. I maximized usage by renting the courts to USTA teams and hosting three tournaments.
Also, our local college, Northern Arizona University (NAU), has men’s and women’s tennis teams. To make room for university expansion, the tennis courts on the NAU campus had to be removed. In addition, the local indoor tennis facility closed its doors for financial reasons. This created a unique opportunity to rent courts to the college. Because NAU needed the courts from September to April, this dovetailed nicely with our season. I consulted with the maintenance staff, and they agreed to keep the courts clear of snow. This enabled us to rent the courts in the winter to the college and also to high school teams.
The biggest factor behind our turnaround was integrating the courts with the community, understanding our community’s needs and matching it with what our facility had to offer. I also hired other pros who teach in the city’s tennis program during the summer to work as independent contractors here in the winter, since we were maintaining the courts.
In 11 months, we are now up $19,686, a turnaround of more than $30,000. And our future is bright. The financial model of having a tennis club used exclusively by members when there is not sufficient membership to financially support the tennis program is a recipe for failure. Reaching out and integrating the courts’ usage with the community’s needs is a win-win formula for both.
On the horizon for us is snow play, cross-country skiing, and ice skating on artificial ice, utilizing the club’s infrastructure to further enhance our economic fortunes. Our successful tennis turnaround has given us a whole new outlook on what we can do to generate revenue.
Continental Country Club Tennis Director Greg Kleiner, with Georgie Mills, coauthored the book “Strings,” which was due to be released in January. “Strings,” a work of fiction, takes readers behind-the scenes of a college’s women’s tennis team and its journey through a year of training, study, competition, relationships, and the mysterious life balance required of a female student athlete. The book is being published by Xlibris.
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