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What's all the fuss about?

It’s about ownership of one of the largest and potentially the most valuable blocks of land
in Sydney’s Eastern Suburbs.

It’s a struggle of a sporting facility attempting to retain its 80 year tenure against a hostile and vindictive raider. A developer wanting to commercialise the site and destroy the natural tranquillity of this famous Paddington open space.

It’s a struggle many clubs not only tennis and bowls are fighting everyday.

Background to the current dispute

The NSW Lawn Tennis Association (now Tennis NSW) acquired White City in 1919 and moved to the site from Double Bay. At the end of the second world war the association applied for a liquor licence but was rejected. The LTA was an association was not a club in the meaning of the Liquor Licensing Act. So in 1947 White City Tennis Club was formed and leased its courts from the LTA.

Between 1948 and 1999 White City was the home of NSW tennis and played host to tennis championships and Davis Cup competitions. In 1954 the White City set a world record crowd for attendance at a Davis Cup challenge round when Australia played the USA and 25,578 tennis fans turned out to watch. This record stood until 2000 when Spain beat Australia 3- 1 in Barcelona.

Sydney Olympics changes the fortunes of White City tennis. In 1993 Sydney was awarded the 2000 Olympic Games. SOCOG investigated White City as a possible venue for the Olympic tennis event. It was decided to establish a new tennis facility at Olympic Park, Homebush. The building of the centre was partly financed by the NSW State Government and Tennis NSW. As a result White City became redundant to the needs of Tennis NSW. To help finance the construction at Homebush Tennis NSW invited expressions of interest for the White City site.

A number of proposals were received including one by English tennis player David Lloyd and his associated Australian tennis player, John Alexander. The other proposal from a consortium consisting of Kerry Packer, John Singleton and Robert Whyte in a company called Manboom Pty Ltd.

In 1996 Tennis NSW choose Manboom as the future owner and developer of the White City site.

WCTC objected to Manboom’s development proposal and with support of the “Save the White City” group and local Paddington residents ACE (at the time headed up by Keri Huxley who is now a Woollahra Councillor responsible for White City development), put an end to the proposed development.

By 2000 Manboom withdrew their proposal, defeated by the Woollahra Council, the public and the WCTC.

In 2003 Winton Property Group (who acquired the option from Manboom) together with Tennis NSW proposed a 80 unit townhouse plus tennis club on the site. WCTC was given an option to buy land contingent on the deal going ahead. Woollahra Council turned down the development proposal.

In 2004 after many years of fruitless discussion with Tennis NSW, WCTC entered a deal whereby John Alexander Clubs Pty Ltd would acquire the land on behalf of WCTC and finance the construction of a new sporting club which the club would own and lease to Alexander for 99 years.

In 2005 Tennis NSW put the White City site up for tender to the highest bidder. Many WCTC members consider this an act of treachery given that Tennis NSW charter is to promote, encourage and develop tennis in NSW, not sell tennis clubs.

The site was sold in May 2005 for $15.3 million. Grammar ($5.35 Million) and Maccabi ($3.2 million) paid for their share on settlement, and John Alexander ($6.75 million), holding the first option, was given two years to find the money. Should he fail, WCTC had the right to acquire the land.

The agreement WCTC entered with John Alexander Clubs (JAC’s) was formalised in a Memorandum of Understanding. Essentially WCTC gave up rights to the land and a 20 year lease to permit Alexander to develop a new sporting centre which White City members would own and lease to him.

In June 2007 Alexander advised that a company owned by him called Poplar Holdings Pty Ltd would be the entity to exercise the option and acquire the land. Lang walker of Walker Corporation provided 100% of the funds to Poplar by way of a floating charge over the company.

White City tennis club does not believe that Alexanders actions are lawful and that he is not entitled to own the land in his name given the assurances and documentation entered into between him and WCTC. Alexander did not act in accordance with the mandate given him by WCTC members.

In November 2007, Poplar evicted WCTC.

Historical Significance of the site

White City - Proud Davis Cup record

Davis Cup Finals Played at White City:

Year Location Winner Runner Up Score
1951 White City Stadium, Sydney, Australia Australia United States 3-2
1954 White City Stadium, Sydney, Australia United States Australia 3-2
1960 White City Stadium, Sydney, Australia Australia Italy 4-1
1965 White City Stadium, Sydney, Australia Australia Spain 4-1
1977 White City Stadium, Sydney, Australia Australia Italy 3-1

Aerial view of WCTC Centre Court 1954 Davis Cup Final

In 1954 White City hosted the Davis Cup final between Australia and the United States and set a world record crowd of 25,578. This record stood until 2000 when Spain beat USA 3- 2 in Serville.

For the record:

1. Tony Trabert USA beat Lew Hoad AUST 6/4 2/6 12/10 6/3
2. Vic Seixas USA beat Ken Rosewall AUST 8/6 6/8 6/4 6/3

Trabert & Seixas b Hoad & Rosewall 6/2 4/6 6/2 10/8

Reverse Singles
1. Ken Rosewall AUST beat Tony Trabert USA 9/7 7/5 6/3
2. Rex Hartwig AUST beat Vic Seixas USA 4/6 6/3 6/2 6/3