No Limits Fitness part-owner Maria Maywood said the North Shore gym will close its squash courts at the end of July.
The two courts, one of which can transform into a wallyball or racquetball court, are the only that remain in the city, but have not proven to be moneymakers for the gym since it opened in 2013, according to Maywood.
“Our biggest revenue is the gym and we’ve got to grow the gym,” she said. “It’s unfortunate for the amount of space they [the courts] take up, it doesn’t give us the revenue. That’s what it comes down to.
“If it was a younger crowd that was getting into it more … but it’s an older crowd and it just seems to be dying off. The people that do get hurt or stop playing, they are not getting replaced by new people.”
The Kamloops Squash Association (KSA), which operates programming out of No Limits and has fought for years to keep the sport alive in the city, is not giving up on convincing No Limits to keep its courts.
"We will continue to follow up with the owners at No Limits," KSA president Dave Clutton told KTW. "This is a good opportunity to look at developing a better foundation for squash in town and, in the meantime, we will see if we can keep the courts."
Clutton added that while the average age of squash players in Kamloops is likely in the 40s, he coaches about 40 kids in weekly sessions and No Limits' leagues feature players 19 and older.
Two longtime squash players, Alison Slater and Trevor Stephens, had just finished a match at No Limits when they shared thoughts on the news.
“It’s part of my lifestyle, it’s part of the camaraderie I enjoy with the other players, it’s very social and I’m really going to miss it,” Slater said.
“I know it’s a private facility and they have every right to determine how they want to put their facility to use. In saying that, I’m disappointed. I’m really disappointed.”
Added Stephens: “It’s private enterprise. Squash is a great cardio sport and it’s social, but it’s probably not a moneymaker. We’ve been through this before.”
No Limits part-owner Justin Grover spoke to KTW on Wednesday.
"What we want to do from July 1 to July 31 is open up the facility, free of charge, to anybody who has played squash or wants to play squash as a way of saying thank you to the community for the support over the past few years," Grover said.
"Moving forward, the wall between the squash courts will come down and we're going to expand the gym into that section and create more space for our current members to take advantage of."
Grover said the renovation will be done in three phases, which include the removal of the squash courts and expansion of the gym, along with enhancement and expansion upstairs in the ladies-only section and of the boot-camp room.
Members of the Tournament Capital’s squash community are familiar with displacement.
In the summer of 2008, Racquetor Courts and Fitness on McGill Road closed its doors. Malone's on 8th and its squash courts followed suit in May of 2010.
A dimly lit, aging squash setup in the Thompson Rivers University gymnasium became the only place to knock the little rubber ball around until it closed in 2012.
Maria and Darren Maywood and Andrew and Lisa Watson bought the Malone’s on 8th building and transformed it into No Limits, which opened in January of 2013. Justin and Alicia Grover have since bought into No Limits.
In July of 2012, Byron McCorkell, then the city’s director of parks, recreation and cultural services, said the squash facility at TRU was in line for a major upgrade had Kamloops won its bid for the 2015 Canada Winter Games.
Prince George was awarded the Games.
Andrew Watson told KTW in 2015 he was worried about declining squash membership at No Limits and warned one court may have to be closed, but remained hopeful No Limits could remain a hub for the sport.
A survey sent to No Limits members on May 29 asked for help with ideas for upcoming improvements to the gym, but nowhere on the list of options was squash mentioned.
Some squash-playing members saw the writing on the wall.
“The gym is growing, but that part [squash] isn’t growing,” Maria Maywood said. “Boot camps are growing. We might have to expand that room. More functional stuff is so big right now. Training for Spartan, Tough Mudder. They want agility and speed and a little bit of room. Weights.”
The goal is to complete renovations by September.
“For us, it’s scary,” Maria Maywood said. “We’re taking it [squash] away with no money coming in at first. We can’t afford to buy too much more equipment. It’s going to be a slow transition.”
KSA members are looking into alternative options, the most viable of which seems to be the refurbishment of the courts in the TRU gym.
One of the squash courts is not the size commonly used in Canada and the other is a racquetball court that could double as a squash court if it had an adjustable back wall, but both have been used for storage since 2012.
TRU athletics and recreation director Curtis Atkinson has been contacted for comment.
There has been talk in the past of building some sort of squash facility on the Kamloops Tennis Association grounds at 750 Front St., but that project, a seemingly expensive one on city land, is unlikely to happen anytime soon.
“Everybody is sad,” Maria Maywood said. “I’ve had a lot of messages on Facebook. People know we are the only place in town. That makes me sad. We definitely don’t want to crush people if it’s their only sport. We know we are going to lose them.
“But we need to make money to run the business.”