Over the weekend there were a few messages circulating among the squash community about David Lloyd Club Hampton. Management has decided to embrace the new Blaze fad in fitness by reducing the number of squash courts from four to two.
Naturally the squash members are up in arms and have begun an on-line petition, although the transition is imminent. Anyone can add sign up to the petition and add a comment if they wish.
Having looked at the comments generated by the decision it appears that David Lloyd Hampton is supposed to be a rackets club with the motto My Life My Club. However, it has already lost badminton courts and a floodlit tennis court.
This is surely a dis-service to the members who have shown loyalty and commitment to their life sports and the club itself.
Usually the decision to close squash courts is based on financial viability. We went through the ‘revenue per square metre’ equations in the 80s, with the hype about aerobics and new gym culture. We know that squash cannot compete in this context, but it does in all other aspects.
I expect management has worked through the financials and logistics and have a good basis for their decisions, which may not have been explained clearly to members.
The benefits of a good game of squash are well-documented in health and lifestyle circles so there is no need to list them here.
There must be another way to accommodate the Blaze studios. Apparently there is alternative space available so why not use that instead?
Of course, extending buildings is more expensive than converting existing structures. However, will swapping squash courts for Blaze studios be practical? The music will distract those playing on the two remaining courts, which will cause conflict among its membership.
Long-serving members have said they will leave and this will have a ripple effect across the local and regional community as well as the sport. The club’s lack of or reduced representation in the county league will be impacted which, in turn, will render it less competitive.
In addition, scheduling big events would become difficult. With just two courts the club would certainly be forced to limit its activities.
The dynamics of the club will change - the camaraderie, commitment, loyalty, ambience, team-spirit – all those invaluable intangibles.
It may be a change in direction for the group of clubs under the David Lloyd banner – perhaps they are aiming to provide a workout rather than an experience? It is understood that there is a similar dilemma at Gidea Park in Essex.
David Lloyd Hampton appears to have a great balance of facilities and activities geared towards racket sports and fitness. It would be a shame to upset this balance.
There are few centres that offer three racket sports and this should be its unique selling point, as families can be encouraged to participate as a unit. This does not apply to other fitness activities. It is in a privileged position being able to offer multiple sports and fitness options.
This unfortunate decision has clearly angered and upset members.
I turned my back on a lucrative career in statistics and opted to dedicate my working life to squash. Even in the most challenging of situations I have never looked back.
As a squash professional I am undoubtedly passionate about - and protective of - our sport. Blaze may increase revenue but at what cost?
Please feel free to join the petition.