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Long-standing members of Delta's only squash club are concerned the seaside facility, which is up for sale, will be converted into housing.
The Bayside Squash Club sits on the corner in an idyllic residential neighbourhood at Boundary Beach. A second-storey deck boasts unobstructed views of Point Roberts, the club's direct neighbour to the southwest.
Built in the 1930's, the building alone has a storied history. It was dance hall, then a fish and chips spot that served customers on both sides of the border through a window, until the squash club took up residence in the late '70s.
Geoff Whitehead moved from Montreal to the Delta area in 1979. He saw the sign out front advertising a squash club and became Bayside's "member number one".
"All of my social contacts come from this club," says Whitehead.
The high-speed racquet sport packs plenty of action on the main floor of the modest-sized building. Alongside the three squash courts is a fitness centre with cardio and strength training equipment in front of picture windows that look out to the beach.
There is also plenty of activity upstairs in the clubhouse where members meet regularly for socials put on by the Bayside Squash Society. It's this group of veteran members that saved the club from dissolution in the mid '90s.
Tim Saunders, then-president of the Bayside Squash Society, bought the club 16 years ago because it was the only way he could see it going forward. Throughout the ownership, Tim and his wife Cherie cultivated a strong membership and the largest junior squash program in the province.
It was the couple's competitive squash-playing children that kept them enthusiastic despite the labour-intensive upkeep of the club. They were also maintaining full-time careers on the side.
Until last fall when the writing was on the wall, said Tim. He took what he saw was a win-win opportunity to sell the squash club to an Asian businessman who would share ownership with Viktor Berg, the No. 1 mens' squash player in B.C. and former world No. 1 doubles player.
"It looked like a perfect fit all along," said Tim. "Suddenly, Viktor was no longer in the picture."
At that point, Tim offered to stay on as manager of the Bayside Squash Club. His plan was to run it as a business and basically lease it back from the new owners, but he said he was turned down.
A few months after purchasing, the off-shore owner, who Tim says paid cash for the property, re-listed it with Berg's father Tussy of Royal Pacific Realty. The website listing states the 10,557 square foot lot is priced at $2.6 million and can be used as sports or private club or subdivided into waterfront residential lots.
The club is currently managed by the owner's wife who members claim has no experience running a business or interest in squash. The facility has also fallen into a state of disrepair.
The Leader's calls to the real estate agent and owners for comment on the situation were not returned.
According to Cherie, some of the remaining 130 members are taking advantage of the owners, who she says don't speak English very well, and not paying their dues.
Bayside Squash Society member Louise Latremouille started a letter writing campaign to Delta council asking for their help in saving the club by ensuring that the property remains zoned as C5-Recreational.
"We had a good response from the mayor [Lois Jackson] and three other councillors who either emailed or called," said Latremouille. "It helped us confirm there currently is no application for rezoning. That boded well in our favour. But there is still a level of uncertainty."
Ideally, the members would like to see the club bought by local people who love squash to cement its longevity in the community. Short of some rich squash enthusiast stepping forward, Tim said the club needs to become a public facility in order to survive.
"Obviously, common sense says at some point unless there is municipal backing somebody is going to build a big house on the beach," said Tim.
For more information about the Bayside Squash & Fitness Club email Louise at BaysideSquashClub@gmail.com.