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Preliminary redevelopment plans raise concern among tennis players

Hotel ‘out of place’ next to Whistler Racquet Club



Tennis enthusiasts are appealing to the municipality en masse to protect the future of the Whistler Racquet Club in light of a rezoning application from a Vancouver development company.

Twenty letters came before council on Monday night all written in a similar vein, expressing a number of concerns about the future of the club.

"I would respectfully suggest that it would be a shame if this particular facility were to be reduced or affected in any way by redevelopment of this area," wrote Andrew Macrae, a second homeowner in Whistler.

A proposal to redevelop the land southwest of the Montebello townhomes adjacent to the tennis club is currently before staff at municipal hall. The proposal was submitted by the landowners, The Holborn Group. The proposal is still in the very early stages of discussions between staff and the developers.

The rezoning application calls for the development of 122 townhouse units on the land. The current zoning, however, allows a hotel and spa.

Jimmy Yap, of The Holborn Group, explained why the company wanted to drop the hotel component from the redevelopment of the land.

"When we looked at the site we felt that the hotel may be out of place," said Yap.

"It was going to be a massive building and it would have blocked a lot of the views of the Montebello (residential estates).

"The other thing of course is that more rooms may not help the cause of Whistler hotels today. The last two years have been a little soft so we thought we’d rather not add more rooms to existing inventory. That was the two main considerations we had."

More than a decade ago the land was zoned for a 450-room, five-star hotel, stretching nine storeys.

The company is now proposing to build 108 townhouse units along with 14 units of restricted seniors housing.

Under the current rezoning proposal, three outdoor tennis courts on the site would be removed in the redevelopment. The courts are located on the southern edge of the property.

Yap said those courts are hardly ever used.

At the same time, however, there are ongoing discussions with the municipality to find another solution. That solution may be to relocate the tennis facilities to another location. One suggestion on the table is to move the club to Spruce Grove or to an acceptable alternative site.

Many of the letters addressed to council this week also outlined the state of the current facilities, from the lack of heat to the broken gym equipment and the insufficient lighting in the indoor tennis courts, since The Holborn Group bought the development from Park Georgia two years ago.

"This is a non-sustainable operation that is completely substandard," wrote Tim Regan.

"It was billed to the community as a ‘world class’ facility. It is at best a second rate facility quickly becoming a third."

Yap said the company is aware that the club has fallen behind in standards and they are working hard to address those issues now.

Management staff this week compiled a list of all the deficiencies in the club, such as broken tiles and light bulbs, peeling paint, and cracks in some of the outdoor tennis courts.

The company is planning to do some of the work immediately.

The land was zoned in 1990 for the Bjorn Borg Whistler Resort, following a 1989 proposal call to develop summer amenities.

When Park Georgia developed the land in the early ’90s they planned to build the Montebello homes, the tennis club and a hotel and spa.

In May 1999 they received a development permit to build the hotel. It was planned to be a Hyatt.

The hotel development rights were passed along to The Holborn Group when it bought the company two years ago.

The importance of the tennis club has grown in recent years after the closure of the Whistler Valley Tennis Club in Creekside.

"I feel that the sport of tennis plays a vital role in the social fabric of this community and I am opposed to any downsizing of the tennis facility," wrote Esther Gorman, a 20-year Whistler resident.

"I urge council to acknowledge the Whistler Racquet Club as a vibrant social amenity and to fulfill the municipality’s original commitment to the sport of tennis and the hundreds of tennis players who live in this community."

The Holborn Group also owns the Coast Whistler Hotel and the Summit Lodge in Whistler.