Tournaments and Renovations, with Ilkley Lawn Tennis Club & Squash Club

Club Insure visits the Lexus Ilkley Trophy Tennis Tournament

At Club Insure we had the huge pleasure of visiting Ilkley Lawn Tennis and Squash Club. The club host the Lexus Ilkley Trophy, the largest tennis tournament in the North of England, each year. The world-renowned tournament features both the ATP Challenger and ITF women’s events, and is considered one of the highlights of the summer grass court season.

We visited on the precipice of the tournament, and met Chris Harrison, General Manager, who guided us round the grounds and the clubhouse. Inside, there have also been recent improvements and refurbishments at the club, each with the idea of adding to the experience of the members.

We were invited to tour around Ilkley Lawn Tennis and Squash Club, and explore the services provided by the club as well as witness the organisation that goes into running a large event. We also asked Chris more about the areas of the clubhouse he has improved, and how these improvements have benefited the club.

What goes into converting your club for a World Class Tournament?

Chris Harrison, General Manager, walked us around the ground talking us through the purpose of each temporary structure.

“Ilkley hosts the LEXUS Ilkley trophy every year, which is a world-class tennis tournament, and one of the UK largest single sporting events. It is the most northern professional tennis tournament, the only one in the north of England, and gets around 2,500 paying guests per day, or 20,000 guests across the week.

For the tournament we have built a number temporary structures, more growing year on year since 2015, as the tournaments grows. The main stand has a seating capacity of 1700, and court one with a capacity of 1000.

At the club, we have two groundskeepers and a facilities manager who tend to the grass courts all year round. The high standard is maintained with support from the All England Club, Wimbledon, and are in line with the STRI’s hardness stipulation and grading.

In the near future, because of the safety concerns of expanding centre count’s viewing area, we will be looking to build a purpose-built stadium and relocate centre court. 

All the temporary structures are built in three weeks and then taken down the week after the tournament. In those three weeks while they are available to use, we hire out the hospitality function tent. We have NHS Airedale booked in for a 300-person dinner, we also support them throughout the year. We have Leeds Art fund coming for a presentation, using our temporary venue. And also we will be hosting a night with Andrew Castle, former British Tennis number 1.”

What recent changes have you made to improve the club’s facilities?

Chris also tours us through the regular services of the club and some newly planned improvements.

We installed a temporary padel court which we were using to trial the popularity of padel. It was so popular that we’ve decided to build 4 purpose-built padel courts, and will be moving the asphalt courts, and perhaps add some clay courts. We are on a floodplain, and so we’ve artificially lifted the courts up out of the flood area and used waterproofed materials.

The Café bar is heavily subsidised for our members. We don’t make money on bar sales to members and the cafe doesn’t run on a profit. It’s about improving the member experience. We are currently undergoing a renovation which is on pause because of the tournament. We expect a high volume of traffic into the café during the tournament so it’s worth making changes afterwards.

We have a fully furnished spin room and yoga studio. In the yoga studio which overlooks the outdoor tennis courts we run yoga, Pilates, dance fitness and ballet. We have a ballet tutor come in every week.

We’ve decorated using the service of a local art vendor. They provide the art and we display it for them, and they change the art every few months.

We rent out our spaces to independent businesses. This has allowed us to have a club shop which sells and restrings rackets, and an onsite physio for members, as well as other services.

Many aspects of the clubhouse add to the member experience, from the premium vending machines to the communal sauna in the changing rooms. The membership is split into levels, with some members buying into a high level of services and booking privileges.

Our membership fees garner £1,000,000. There are various membership levels available. Ilkley has 13 grass courts, 3 acrylic courts, 2 asphalt courts, 4 squash courts, 5 indoor tennis courts, and one padel court.

We have 5 indoor courts. They’ve just been resurfaced as of this year, costing around £35,000. Over winter these courts are 98% booked. In summer, because of these courts, the bad weather really helps the club’s profits. We make more money from these courts because people pay a premium to use them.

Through COVID, because of safe spacing, we temporarily used our fifth squash court as a fitness suite. This was successful and so decided to refurbish the court into a gym.

The gym renovation cost £160,000, we’ve created a new membership type which offers gym members access to our personal trainers. We have 5 trainers, and offer one to one and group sessions with instructors.”

What are the benefits of organising a sporting event at your club?

During our tour of Ilkley Lawn Tennis and Squash Club, Chris listed the many benefits of running an event for the club.

He mentions that in the long-term the event will provide a large increase in income for the club. The gain will come mostly through ticket sales and hospitality sales. Ticket prices vary from £16 to £40 with the 20,000 paying entrants wanting different levels of accessibility. The true income from this year’s tournament is not yet calculated, but it will greatly exceed the cost of set up, put down, or the standard hire of the outdoor courts.

Organising an event will bring new customers to your venue. It’s a great opportunity to show off your facilities and get people more interested and involved in your club for future income. The notoriety and popularity of the Lexus Ilkley Trophy is unmatched among sports clubs in North Yorkshire.

Hosting an event also offer benefits for the wider community. For Ilkley, this tournament brings hotel room sales, restaurant bookings, local pub drink sales and interest in the town.

Chris’ proactivity and forward-thinking has also created a separate income stream for the club. In the four weeks the temporary structures are up on the club’s grounds, they have offered their services as a venue for hire. They were quickly booked out by local community group and associations, as well as for speakers’ dinner, and business hospitality events. The club can now gain through venue hire cost and also bar sales for a short time.

Some events suggestions with positive outcomes for sports clubs and social clubs include:

  • Tournaments
  • Galas
  • Parties
  • Wedding Reception
  • Wakes
  • Corporate Events
  • Plant Sales
  • Exhibitions

BE AWARE: Please contact your insurance broker before planning to run an event. At Club Insure we will be able to freely provide risk assessment and relevant advice in to running a safe successful event.

Thank you to Chris Harrison for his time and access. We look forward to learning more about the success of our friends at Ilkley Lawn Tennis and Squash Club.