‘Our goal is to build 100 of these centers’
Interview by ALAN THATCHER (Squash Mad Editor)
The Manhattan Community Squash Center is planning to open its doors at the end of this month. With a number of New York squash clubs closing in the past decade or more, this is a much-needed addition to the Big Apple squash community. We caught up with James Green, one of the founding partners, to discuss the project.
1: How did your project first come about?
Courts have been closing in NYC for about 20 years. In Manhattan we are now down to only one location (Equinox on 61st street) which has regulation squash courts available to the general public. (There are other courts, but they are either all private or part of private clubs who limit access or require references etc.). Our club (The Printing House) closed its doors in 2010 and a group of us has been working on putting it back together ever since.
2: Who are the main people driving it forward?
We are a group of enthusiastic squash players who were devastated when The Printing House (where we used to play squash) was bought by Equinox, who demolished our five courts in December 2010. Ever since then, we’ve been trying to launch a new center to call home. Fitting multiple squash courts into existing buildings in New York City has proved much harder than we ever imagined – but we are finally here! Our group has grown and shrunk and grown again over the years and currently includes David Ellen, David Puchkoff, Terry Talerman, Peter Nicol and myself, with many more who have supported us overtly and covertly over the years.
3: What are your squash backgrounds?
Most of us are mediocre, middle-aged men who play squash for joy and fitness. Not the most desirable or inspired demographic. For example, I took up squash because I was overweight at the age of 39 and my wife told me to “go to the gym”. And then there’s Peter Nicol, who doesn’t really have much in common with the rest of us when it comes to squash skills.
4: It seems you have identified a location to build a new club. How did you choose the spot?
We’ve been looking for eight years and although we found a couple of other spots at various other times, we were never able to close them. This is the first spot that met our criteria of being located in Manhattan and able to house more than four courts.
5: How is the building process progressing?
It’s late! But it’s progressing. Once demolition was complete, building commenced earlier this year. We’d hoped to open by May but then we aimed for August. We are now planning to open on the last day of September.
6: How have you raised the necessary funding?
We ended up raising most of the funds from within the team. We are raising funds in small chunks of $10-$50K or getting people to sign up which will help us reduce our debt burden and make sure we are able to generate positive cash flow after we open.
7: Do you have a vision for how the club should operate?
We are a non-profit and our mission is to make squash more accessible to the general public. The center (We prefer to use the phrase “squash center” vs “squash club” because of the plethora of private clubs in the city and we think center makes it sound less exclusive. But to answer your question, here are some of the things we will do:):
We aim to make sure that the facility is in use every hour of the day.
We provide discounts so that most people can afford to join no matter their financial situation
We will provide juniors with time after school where they can train (from 3-5:45pm)
We will provide lessons and clinics for adults on most days of the week
The bulk of the remaining time will be available for recreational play
We have a women’s committee to make sure that more women join and play than we see in most other facilities.
8: Have you lined up any coaching staff?
Peter Nicol and his organization are running the junior programs and John Musto will run all of the adult programs. There will of course be other pros working at the Center but these are not yet announced.
9: Have you looked at installing any Interactive courts?
Yes. We will have the ability to do that after we open. They will not be installed before opening.
10: What kind of membership numbers do you need to make it viable?
11: What about future plans?
Our goal (at The Squash Center) is to build 100 of these centers…. the Manhattan Community Squash Center is our first.
The Manhattan Community Squash Center is at 25 West 39th Street. Here is the Floor Plan:
Pictures courtesy of The Squash Center