IT was a case of new courts please as Essex University’s stunning tennis dome was opened by alumni and House of Commons speaker John Bercow.

The Tory MP for Buckingham cut the ribbon on the state-of-the art facility which is part of an £11 million investment in the university’s sports facilities and will see a new indoor arena open by the end of the year.

The four new courts are all flood-lit meaning players can practice even when darkness falls and are covered with a 9m high air dome which is made of polythene and supported by continuously running fans.

Mr Bercow, who graduated from Essex University swapped the racket of the House for his tennis racket to enjoy a rally with five-year-old prodigy Haqim Kamal.

He said: “When I was at the university I did try to play for the tennis team but my efforts were not distinguished.

“It is a pleasure to be here to support the university and to see this magnificent new facility.

“It is going to make a real difference in bridging the gap between town and gown - between the university and the community it is a part of.

“I am passionate about this university and it is absolutely typical for it to be innovating further.”

As well as being in extensive use for university students, there is 25 hours per week set aside for community use and officials are hoping to more than double the number of people they see within the next three years.

Essex University’s director of sport Dave Parry said he was delighted to see the facility up and running, which is the second biggest of its type in the UK.

He said: “We are really pleased with how it has turned out.

“It means we can have tennis on all year round - before when we had three outside courts we would lose approximately half of our sessions due to bad weather.

“We are hoping we can attract people from the Colchester area to come and join us.

“There is also excitement about the new sports arena which will be ready by the end of the year and will be based around basketball, netball, badminton and futsal.

“A lot of university is about the student experience and it is important we have the facilities to compete with other places.”

A free open day was also held at the dome on Saturday

During the session, coaches showcased mini-tennis, junior tennis, cardio tennis and adult coaching.

There was also a fastest serve competition.