Walnut Creek residents oppose sale of popular sports club

Lyanne Melendez Image
Monday, September 28, 2015
Walnut Creek residents oppose possible sale of sports club
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A popular swim and tennis club that will close its doors next year so the owners can cash in on the Bay Area's real estate boom.

WALNUT CREEK, Calif, (KGO) -- A popular swim and tennis club that will close its doors next year so the owners can cash in on the Bay Area's real estate boom.

Putting homes and apartments on the property will need city council approval, and residents are ready to put up a fight. They're trying to prevent the closure of ClubSport Valley Vista in Walnut Creek.

Club members have set up a Faceboook and they are also on Change.org and there will be rally on Friday to stop the closure.

Clubsport Valley Vista owns more than 6 acres and has a swimming pool, 19 tennis courts and a clubhouse. It also happens to be home of the Barracudas, the largest youth swim team in Walnut Creek. Through the years, thousands of kids have gone through the program.

"We currently have about 190 swimmers ranging in age from three to four to 18, and they would be without a pool," said Keith Rajeck, of the Valley Vista Swim Team.

The deed shows the principal shareholder of the property as Steve Gilmore, owner of Leisure Sports, which has other sports clubs in the East Bay.

Pat O'Brien is the chief financial officer.

"It's not making any money, it never has. We've subsidized it for 21 years," O'Brien said.

Leisure Sports recently notified club members it will close on Jan. 31, 2016. In the meantime, the company plans to ask the city of Walnut Creek to change its zoning status from recreational to residential, tripling its value.

"Look to do some sort of residential housing, potentially an empty nester-type product, or a standard residential product," O'Brien said.

The planning commission must first review the request. If it recommends rezoning the property, then the city council would vote on the matter. It could take up to a year.

But community members are desperately trying to stop it.

"Generations of families who've grown up here, it's such a tight-knit community that we all support each other and this is where we come to recreate. It's kinds of the balance in our lives," Liz Nomura, of Save Vista Swim and Tennis.

"I understand they own it and they have the right to do this, but the city should take more of an interest in the fact that many people moved here, bought homes here to be close to this wonderful facility," said club member Verna Ogden.

The city of Walnut Creek says it has yet to hear from the owner of the property.