Excerpt from “Tennis Clubs, Pros Struggle to Keep Pace With Demand During Covid,” Los Angeles Business Journal, 11/17/20.
At Mulholland Tennis Club, situated high in the hills of Beverly Crest, business these days is anything but usual.
The membership-only club is open but with strict protocols, shorter hours and limits on how much of the club players can access because of Covid-era restrictions.
“Before members could come in, go to any area they’d like,” said Celine Ramillon, the club’s general manager. “Now, everything is reservation only. It’s a big shift for our members. We have had to completely overhaul how we run the club.”
But these adjustments aren’t stopping members from coming out.
John Austin, director of tennis at Mullholland Tennis Club, said seven of the club’s courts are at capacity during peak hours. And when it comes to lessons, Austin said he’s 35% busier compared to this time last year.
Tennis clubs, clinics and coaches across L.A. County are experiencing a pandemic-fueled boom in demand for court time and lessons.
The sport is largely socially distanced and carries a low risk of coronavirus transmission, according to health experts. Add in L.A.’s year-round warm weather, and it’s not surprising the game is thriving here.
“All across the country, tennis pros have been just swamped,” said John Embree, executive director of the Orlando, Fla.-based United States Professional Tennis Association.
“Business is way up as compared to pre-pandemic times. They can’t keep up with the demand. It’s a phenomenon we didn’t anticipate.”
While tennis businesses in Los Angeles are struggling to keep pace, restrictions on lessons, group activities and court availability have dramatically curtailed revenues.
At Mulholland Tennis Club, for instance, the nonprofit facility has seen revenue plummet to $1.4 million this year compared to nearly $3 million in 2019.
The club furloughed 30-40 workers in March due to the pandemic lockdown. Now, it has 70% of them back, working different roles due to pandemic-era adjustments.
On weekdays, the club opens at 7 a.m. instead of 6 a.m. like it did before the pandemic, and it closes at 8 p.m. instead of 10 p.m.
A check-in station is set up outside where staffers take members’ temperatures. Members also must complete a quick Covid evaluation, answering a series of questions every time they enter the facility.
There’s a section of shaded tables where members can grab snacks and drinks because the indoor dining options are closed. Courts, pools and other facilities are all reservation-based.
Group lessons that used to accept 10 to 15 people are now limited to just four.
“The staycation concept that happened after 9/11, it’s the exact thing now. People don’t want to get into planes. They are participating at facilities they are members in,” said the USTA’s Embree.