The Whistler Tennis Club will be open more hours this winter, with 30 hours per week on the schedule. That's up from a low of 24 hours last season, but still down from the 84 hours in other years. The Whistler Tennis Association is also happy that the hourly rate has been lowered to $19 per hour for members and $38 for visitors. That's down from the $56 per hour that visitors were charged last winter.
"(Club) membership rates are up, but we feel we made a decent compromise," said association head John Konig.
The facility is owned by The Holborn Group and is managed by a contractor. Holborn told Pique last year that they are losing money by keeping the club in operation, especially during the winter months with the high cost of heating the dome.
However, Konig said the club believes that Holborn still has an obligation to operate the facility to a certain standard as part of the overall development that is being planned for the surrounding area.
Meanwhile, the association has said the facility is in poor shape, and a replacement can't come quickly enough. The roof structure is leaking and they are concerned that it has already outlived its lifespan.
"It's old, that's the problem," said Konig. "This was supposed to be a temporary facility and it's been around 20 years. We worry that if it tears, no more indoor club — and Holborn won't spend the money to replace it."
Konig gives the current manager high marks for working with the tennis community and doing well with limited resources — and for taking the initiative at a time when all parties are waiting to see what happens next.
Holborn acquired the property and tennis club from Park Georgia, then spent three years on a plan to rezone the property from a hotel to a lower density residential development with a tennis facility and seniors housing. The plan reached third reading in 2008, but with the economic crisis and cooling demand for new real estate Holborn has not brought the plan for fourth reading — something that would result in concrete timelines for the project moving forward.
The history of the property revolves around the tennis club. In the 1980s, Whistler put out a call for development concepts, awarding bed units to builders in exchange for creating summer recreation facilities that serve tourists and the community. The three projects that came out of that initiative were the Nicklaus North neighbourhood and golf course, the Fairmont Chateau Whistler hotel and golf course and the tennis club, which was also zoned for a large hotel. The facility constructed on the site was always intended to be temporary, with plans to build a world-class permanent facility when the hotel was constructed. Without the tennis courts amenity, the land would be zoned for a handful of bed units with a RR1 zoning.
Holborn's project at third reading included 58 market townhouses and 123 market apartments and townhouse-style condos. The 11.3-acre plot is also slated to include a Tennis and Fitness Centre with seven outdoor courts and five indoor courts — the minimum required to host sanctioned national and international level tournaments.
Konig said members are concerned that Holborn will apply to change the project to reduce the size of the tennis facility. As well members are concerned that Holborn could, citing losses, close the facility completely.
It has been proposed that the Whistler Tennis Association or another agency take over the management of the tennis facility temporarily, but Konig said that is impossible.
"We don't have the wherewithal financially to take on those losses," he said. "And before we did that Holborn would have to repair the building and the courts, and off the top of my head it would probably cost $250,000 to do that. Holborn might be willing to do that (for a third party operator), but I don't think so if they're complaining about the heating bills."
Ideally, Konig would like to see Holborn bring the project as it stood at third reading back to council for fourth reading without any changes.