Game, set, match, panic.
South Sound tennis players seem to be suffering the most following the announcement this week that Bally would close its fitness centers nationwide.
Fitness International LLC, an affiliate of LA Fitness, has agreed to acquire the assets of 171 – from a total of 271 – Bally fitness clubs.
In the Puget Sound area, clubs in Olympia, Tacoma, Federal Way and Kent will close. Clubs in Bellevue, Lynwood and Puyallup have been acquired by LA Fitness.
• Anita Garza at the Olympia Bally’s said the center would close Thursday. She said most Bally’s membership contracts would be honored by LA Fitness – with the exclusion of “lifetime” memberships, the lifetimes of which would expire.
• “Our club is staying open until they open a new gym nearby,” said a receptionist at the Puyallup outlet this week. “The plan is to stay open until the grand opening. We heard it will be open about halfway through 2012.”
• No one would comment for the record at the Tacoma Bally center, located on South Mildred Street.
Tennis players there, however, would comment.
“This is very frustrating for us. It’s not just a hobby, it’s a whole social life, a network,” said Mary Souza of Gig Harbor, a six-year member.
“It’s an unbelievable network,” she said. “It’s like the palace has come tumbling down. It’s crashed.”
Tracy Coons, also of Gig Harbor, said, “It’s very sad.”
“They’re just closing this building down,” Coons said. “In the tennis realm, it’s very hard to find indoor courts. This is an incredible facility. The pros are in complete shock. All of my friends from Gig Harbor are shocked and saddened.”
No one was available to comment at Bally corporate headquarters or at LA Fitness.
Another six-year member, Dennis Johnson, said, “We have a real community of people. It’s a sad thing.”
Johnson said he plays three or four times each week at the Mildred Street facility.
“In the wintertime, the courts are used constantly. It’s kids and adults, just a nice group of people. It’s really difficult for us – living in the Northwest, we don’t have a lot of options.”
One local option is the Seminary District Tacoma Lawn Tennis Club.
“We currently have a wait list,” said club general manager Tom Peterson on Friday.
“People can’t just leave there and come over and join our club. We would love to have them on our waiting list.”
That list, he said, comprises a wait of between six and nine months.
“We have been getting quite a few calls,” he said.
A receptionist at the Lakewood Racquet and Sport Club said the facility did have openings, but would soon initiate a membership cap.
“We do have some openings,” she said. “We are accepting new members. There will be a cap. I don’t know when the cap will come.”
No one was available to comment at Sprinker Recreation Center in Spanaway, one of the few public indoor tennis facilities in the area.
“There is a conversation,” said player Dennis Johnson of Gig Harbor. “We’re trying to get a group together to see if we can buy the tennis building (at Bally). That’s the conversation: ‘What are we going to do?’ It’s devastating.”
C.R. Roberts: 253-597-8535