4995 Airport-Pulling Road, Naples, FL
NAPLES — A long-time Naples tennis club is closing its doors.
The Naples Tennis Club and Resort — known around town as the Naples Bath and Tennis Club — plans to shut down the club, officials said Wednesday.
“We had to take some difficult steps,” said Greg Pilewicz, a Naples tennis club director. “That includes ... minimizing some of the operations of the club.”
Pilewicz said the immediate effect will be the closure of the club’s 33,000-square-foot clubhouse, the fitness center and casual restaurant. The club’s 38 courts — 37 of which are clay courts — may temporarily remain open for member use.
Robin Frederick, president of the Naples Bath and Tennis Club Commons Board, said community members were informed of the closure during a meeting Wednesday morning.
“It’s a very sad thing,” Frederick said. “The club is the central life for many people who have lived here. It’s their social circle, and it will be greatly missed.”
Steve Lubar, the club’s tennis membership coordinator, said the closure goes into effect Oct. 31. Membership fees at the club are paid month to month so refunds should not be an issue.
The community was developed in the 1970s; and since the development plan was adopted in 1973, the 154-acre complex has hosted several tennis tournaments and partnered with Academia Sanchez-Casal, a youth tennis and academic training program.
The academy shut its doors in September.
Kevin Walker, tennis manager for the city of Naples, said the tennis club has been “a large part” of Naples’ tennis community over the years.
“They’ve been very prominent,” Walker said. “I hadn’t heard they were closing, but I heard they’ve been in limbo.”
Walker wasn’t the only person surprised by the news Wednesday.
Dave Siede, a club and community member, said that rumors of problems spread through the community in recent months but the announcement still caught him off guard.
“It was a little surprising,” he said. “I thought maybe they would have had someone interested in buying it. It was shocking to see it closed like that.”
Frederick said club officials had been working behind the scenes to keep the club open.
Walker said he understands some of the financial stress club owners may have been under to maintain the courts. The city’s tennis complex, the Arthur L. Allen Tennis Center at Cambier Park, has 12 clay courts.
“It’s very high maintenance,” Walker said. “It takes quite a bit of work.”
Chicago-based Esmark, Inc. owns the club, and Lubar said he was told “it was strictly a business decision” to shut down the club.
“Everyone has known that the club had some struggles financially for years,” Pilewicz said. “It’s unfortunate.”
Part of the financial struggle could be because property owners in the community are not required to buy a club membership. Siede said if the community’s by-laws required membership, the club could be in a much different position today.
“That’s the weakness of the situation: The key point is when they built this club, what they had to have in the by-laws was (property owners) have to have at least a social membership,” Siede said.
“If we had that, we’d have at least 520 members (in the community) and 200 from outside. That’s the weakness in the structure.”
Pilewicz said Esmark is actively in the process of reviewing alternatives, and is looking for parties interested in buying or leasing the club. Until that time, he said, the club will be closed.
Community members said they are hopeful someone will step up and take over the club.
“We’re hoping that a white knight or someone (will come along) that can make it happen,” Siede said.
Connect with Naples reporter Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster at www.naplesnews.com/staff/jenna-buzzacco