President Uhuru Kenyatta said Wednesday the Government has started an initiative to make tennis a public sport available for Kenyans from all walks of life.
The President said Kenya will follow the example of the United States where many tennis champions horned their skills in public courts rather than exclusive clubs for the well to do.
The President made the statement when he held talks with officials of Ministry of Sports, International Tennis Federation, African Tennis Confederation and Tennis Kenya on the construction of a tennis training centre worth Sh700 million at the Kasarani Sports Complex.
The National Training Centre, which will also host the International Tennis Federation training centre for Africa, will be the second of its kind in Africa and is bound to put Kenya at the apex of international tennis.
The other ITF training centre in Africa is in Morocco but the Kenyan one will have the distinction of being at a high altitude.
The new facility will make Nairobi a hub for tennis in Eastern and Southern Africa. The centre can also be a source of huge revenue from sports tourism when it hosts tennis features.
President Kenyatta said Kenya is a sporting nation but so far little efforts have been made to make tennis a public sport.
“Tennis has not been available to our people. We want to make it a public sport that is open to the people. The talent is there but it is facilities that have been lacking,” said the President.
The President said the Government has already allocated Sh30 million to start the construction of the facility and more is expected to be allocated through the next budget.
The Government has allocated 10 acres of land at the Kasarani Sports Complex for the construction of the training centre and the National Youth Service as well as the Ministry of Sports are contributing to its development.
The President said he will urge the Kenyan private sector to support the development of tennis as a public sport.
“Making tennis a public sport will inspire the youth and that is what is important for us,” said the President.
Principal Secretary Ministry of Sports Peter Kaberia said tennis has not taken root because of the lack of public courts but that will change with the development of the centre at Kasarani.
The President of ITF, David Haggerty, said the public tennis facility and training centre will be one if its kind and will provide opportunity for talent development.
“In the US most of the champions come from public facilities. The home of Kenya tennis can give an opportunity for disadvantaged youth to become tennis stars,” said Mr Haggerty.
The President of African Tennis Confederation, Tarak Cherif, said the management of tennis in Kenya is one of the best in Africa and the new facility will enable the sport to rise to a new level.
The Acting Director General of Tennis Kenya Saima Odima said Kenya will in June host the Davis Cup. He said 14 countries have already confirmed participation in the event.
Head of Public Service Joseph Kinyua and Secretary Administration State Department of Sports, Kassim Farah, also attended the meeting.