The Nelson Squash Club has finally opened its doors. All it took was 10 months of hard work and long delays following years of doubt that it would even survive.
The club was made available for use Monday, the result of a drawn-out process that the non-profit society’s president is thrilled to see come to fruition.
“It’s never looked this good,” said Pat Hodgson on Saturday. “It may have at one time 30 years ago but in the time I’ve been here it’s never looked this good.”
The renovations, which cost the organization $30,000 in member donations and required another $20,000 from former member Ed Olthof after a proposed plan was accepted in March, include two updated courts with better visibility for spectators, a redone ceiling and walls, and a new bar.
It’s the first substantial work done to the club since its inception in 1984, and it didn’t come easy.
The courts were done in two weeks, but the liquor license took eight months and nearly $5,000 to get approved. Construction was also delayed four months to make sure the fire separation between the club’s two floors at 330 Baker St., above The Royal, was acceptable.
The club had previously occupied the space until 2011 when the building’s ownership changed and rent went up. That led to the club’s change to a non-profit society and a move out of the space to pair of courts upstairs accessible only through an old window. Meanwhile, the club explored moving to the previously empty Civic Theatre and also had plans fall through to share space at the Nelson Curling Centre.
It was, according to Hodgson, less than ideal.
After a change of landlords, the club was able to retake possession of the downstairs area in the fall of 2014, but it was clear that renos were required.
“This [place] was trashed,” said Hodgson. “The courts were demolished. There was no question about that. The courts themselves, they were 30 years old anyways, so they needed to be updated. They were getting worn out. And the floors, particularly in court one, had been destroyed by the previous tenant. It was a gym so they dropped weights on the hardwood. So that had to be done.”
The club relied on its members volunteering construction time to stay on budget. Club manager Paul Lamoureux praised Nelson’s squash lovers for the work they put in.
“Just ripping all this stuff down and taking it out. I mean, two guys trying to do that? It would have taken forever,” said Lamoureux. “We had 25, 30 people here on like three or four different Saturdays doing the courts. It was a really good group effort.”
Hodgson hopes the completed renos mean the club can start growing again.
A new pricing structure, as well as $12 drop-ins for anyone who isn’t already a member, is a step toward growing the club’s community that has been stifled for several years by the inadequate facilities.
“This place means a tremendous amount to the people who have been members here for a long time, and getting it back is a huge, huge shot in the arm for so many of us,” he said.