In a major boost to its northwestern frontier grassroots expansion, Tennis Cambodia has secured a $50,000 Infrastructure Facility Grant from the International Tennis Federation to build world class courts in Siem Reap, seven years after similar funding saw the creation of an international standard tennis centre in Phnom Penh.
Under the Federation’s strategic plan, two to four courts will be built at the existing but disused Siem Reap Stadium at a location that had been earmarked for tennis when the multidiscipline complex began to take shape in 2004.
A private developer is said to have abandoned the project midway, leading to the takeover of the complex, spread over nearly 10 hectares of land, in 2005 by the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport.
But for sporadic activity in indoor basketball and volleyball and the use of the main playing arena for the odd school sports events, the complex has remained largely underutilised.
However, Metfone C-League football team Cambodian Tiger have made it their home this year. The Tigers are training there and have played three of their home games at the ground, raising hopes of the once well thought out complex springing back to life again.
“The creation of Siem Reap Tennis Centre will go a long way in inspiring other sports federations to move in and fulfil the grand purpose for which this complex was designed,” Tennis Cambodia’s northwestern region head coach Scott Windus told The Post in Siem Reap last week.
“We will build these courts exactly on the site that had been marked for tennis in the original plan.
“But before we start work on the two to four courts that we have in mind, we need to seek guarantees from the government that Tennis Cambodia will have complete access to and control of the centre.
“This is one of the main preconditions for the release of the grant from the International Tennis Federation,” said Windus, who has been heading Tennis Cambodia’s northwest operations for the past three years.
The Federation has opened a channel of communication with the Siem Reap Provincial Office of the Ministry of Education, seeking approval for a long-term caretaker lease agreement between the ministry and Tennis Cambodia.
A Ministry of Education official in Siem Reap, Chun Savandy, confirmed to The Post that his office is in the process of forwarding Tennis Cambodia’s application for favourable consideration by the higher powers in Phnom Penh.
While requesting a 50-year caretaker lease arrangement with the government, Tennis Cambodia has assured authorities that it aims to work with the Siem Reap Ministry of Education office to encourage a large and regular inter-school sports competition that can utilise the complex along with other national associations.
“Our coaching team in Siem Reap, under the supervision of Scott Windus, has worked tirelessly to not only keep tennis alive but is now spreading it positively. This is another step towards growing the game nationwide,” said Tennis Cambodia Secretary-General Tep Rithivit.
“The creation of this world-class centre will not only add a new dimension to our programs in Siem Reap, where thousands of boys and girls are going through grassroots development, but it will also create another stop for our international events, like ITF Juniors and Futures,” he said.
“It is a game-changer for Tennis Cambodia and a big leap for the community.”
The Federation is expecting the necessary paperwork on the caretaker lease to be completed in the next few weeks.
Once they get the green light from the Ministry of Education, Tennis Cambodia will lose no time in starting construction on the courts.
If all goes according to plan, the tennis centre in Siem Reap should be operational by the end of this year, considerably boosting the Kingdom’s infrastructure capability ahead of the 2023 SEA Games that the country will be hosting for the first time.
But between the ITF grant and Tennis Cambodia’s grand scheme stands the government’s willingness to provide the long term lease, leaving the ball firmly in the Ministry of Education’s court.