Club's namesake 'devastated' by tennis centre fire
COACHES and committee members gathered in distress at the Terranora Tennis Centre after it burnt down on Friday morning.
Half of the club house has crumbled, with the section closest to the tennis court completely gutted.
Names the Joan Nicoll Tennis Centre after club patron and former grand slam competitor Joan Nicoll, the Henry Lawson Dr club has been a hub for the sport's junior elite in the area since it officially opened in February 2016.
Mrs Nicoll and husband Graham said they were devastated by the news of the fire, but they were confident the club would survive.
"There's so many people in the community, not just the tennis club, who have put so much energy into it,” Mrs Nicoll said.
"We can rebuild, but it's not the same.”
Mr Nicoll said a large amount of tennis memorabilia was stored inside the club. He said they were working on an interim plan for club members.
"We're a bit hamstrung because of safety... but we will get there and we're very grateful for all of the support and encouragement we have had from people,” he said.
Tweed Heads Fire and Rescue Service senior firefighter Greg Mackay said they were called to the scene just before 4am (NSW) to find the centre largely engulfed in flames.
Firefighters from Tweed Heads and Banora Point attended, with the last leaving the scene at 8.15am.
The centre's media officer Judy Cartwright said they were "absolutely devastated” by the fire.
Tweed Byron LAC inspector Jackie Lilley said a nearby resident had alerted emergency services after seeing the blaze from their kitchen window about 3.55am.
Insp Lilley said Tweed Heads detectives were carrying out an investigation into the fire - which may have began in the cafeteria - and was being treated as suspicious.
"They are seeking any information that the community might have to assist us with the investigation,” she said.
"At this point, there is some concern in relation to structural damage. We have to ensure the electricity has been isolated... and we have concerns about the roof collapsing.”
There was minimal damage to the tennis courts themselves.
Club president Rob Nienhuis said while the fire would be a big hurdle, the 180-strong member club would remain resilient.
"We're going to get it back up and running as quickly as possible,” Mr Nienhuis said.
"We're not going to let this set us back.”
Secretary Debbie Teitzel visited the scene with fellow members on Friday morning, and said she was "devastated” by the blaze.
She said they were not yet sure how long the club's operations would need to be suspended.
A hub for elite junior talent, plans were announced recently to construct three grass courts, giving the centre every major competition surface.