The Southern California tennis community received some much-needed feel-good news to put an end to a tumultuous 2020: the venerable 47-year-old Claremont Club had been sold with plans at re-opening as soon as possible.
In the sporting vernacular, the decision could be called a shocking upset as many longtime Claremont Club members were fearful that the 27-court club that had suddenly closed in July due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic would be sold and re-zoned by the City of Claremont and turned into apartments or townhomes.
But the McKay family from Northern California rode into town and saved the day purchasing the Claremont Club with the intent of reopening as soon as health-orders permit. The McKay Group is a family-owned company that operates the Carmel Valley Athletic Club and Refuge spa in Carmel, Calif. It is headed by president and matriarch Heidi McKay, a life-long tennis player and owner of the Carmel Valley Athletic Club. The company is run by the family, which includes seven children, and CEO Adam Tight.
“My mom likes to say it’s kind of fate with everything that has happened,” said Kyle McKay, communications manager for the McKay Group, who toured the club in the fall along with Heidi and Tight, who thought the club could make an acceptable offer. “The Claremont Club was such a fixture in the community and did so well for so many years. It just so happened that the pandemic came and destroyed it. I wouldn’t say we are saviors of the club, but that we came in to revive it and just fit the pieces back together again.”
McKay said an announcement was made on December 23 via an email to TCC members, saying in part: “Under the ownership of the Clark family and management of Mike Alpert, The Claremont Club has become a beacon in the fitness world and we are honored to now be part of that legacy. In the coming weeks and months, we will begin our reopening procedures, starting with swimming, tennis, and pickleball. We will also be creating safe outdoor spaces for group exercise classes and gym equipment as soon as we can.”
The members were also asked to fill out a survey giving their thoughts on the re-opening of the club. “We are passionate about building strong communities and know that every voice counts,” the email to members stated. “Your answers will give us a roadmap to plan our initial course of action. This will continue to be a family-run business and we will read each response thoroughly.”
Originally slated to open on Jan. 1, McKay said that date has been delayed due to COVID-related health restrictions. “Because tennis, pickleball and swimming are sports done outdoors, we feel we can safely open up those activities and plan to put up tents that will house our cardio and gym equipment.”
Longtime Claremont Club Director of Tennis Barry Friedman and several of his staff have been “renting” the courts for clinics and lessons, and Friedman said the hope is to work out a deal with the McKay Group to remain at the club.
“We hope to bring back as many pros as we can,” McKay said. “It’s definitely still a process because we are still in a pandemic, but we look forward to working with Barry and the other teaching pros.”
The Claremont Club members are a passionate group and started a Facebook Group soon after it closed encouraging the owners to sell to a group like the McKays. At one point, about 200 supporters held a vigil in the parking lot vowing to save the club.
McKay said it won’t be long now, and everyone from the new owners, members and the pros can’t wait to have the club re-open. “We’re still working on the membership and reopening specifics,” she said. “But we decided to make the announcement now because we wanted to let the community know as soon as possible that The Claremont Club is back.”
Steve Pratt’s columns appear weekly at ustasocal.com.