Racquet club ready for comeback

Jaymie Baxley | The Robesonian | Jonathan Rivera, facility director at Lumberton Racquet Club and Swimming Pool, works on his swing on one of the club’s upgraded courts. The club is hoping a series of recent renovations to the facility will attract new members.

LUMBERTON — Elliott Williamson estimates that more than $100,000 has been poured into the Lumberton Racquet and Swim Club during the past year in an effort to rejuvenate interest in the 34-year-old facility. Now he is hoping people will respond by supporting the club.

“We got together and said we can’t let this thing go,” Williamson said. “We’ve made a real investment and we rescued it.”

Williamson has served four non-consecutive terms as the club’s president since the early-1990s. Last year, he formed Community Partners of Lumberton LLC to oversee the facility.

“This place exists because five or six guys who love tennis got together and built this facility,” Williamson said, “do we’ve come full circle.”

The racquet club was founded in 1981 by a group of Lumberton tennis enthusiasts who”wrote checks and promoted it,” according to Williamson.

The facility’s longtime tennis instuctor, Roger Martin, was ranked No. 1 in doubles for the state from 1989 to 2008. He could have easily joined a larger club, but says the Fayetteville Road facility is his “home.”

“I’ve got a good group of followers here,” Martin said. “I’ve given lessons to three generations of players now. “

It was beginning to look like there wouldn’t be a court left for the fourth generation. The raquet club currently has about 65 members, a considerable decrease from the 170 people the facility served during its heyday. Membership began to dwindle after Southern National Bank shut down its corporate office in Lumberton as part of a merger with BB&T in 1994.

The merger drove dozens of white collar workers to BB&T’s headquarters in Winston-Salem, and many of them were members of the tennis club.

“We lost about 50 members within a two-month period,” Williamson said. “We didn’t think we would survive that one, and we wouldn’t have if it weren’t for the generosity of members.”

The exodus meant less money was coming into the club, and the facility began to fall into a state of disrepair.

“The place was falling down,” Williamson said.

The renovation of the club was extensive. Its tennis courts were resurfaced and outfitted with new lines and nets. The clubhouse was modernized, the grounds were landscaped and new lighting was installed at the freshly painted pool.

The club’s 9-foot-deep swimming pool holds 250,000 gallons of saltwater, which Williamson says is better for a swimmer’s skin than chlorinated water. The facility also features a kiddie pool for smaller swimmers.

Williamson says that membership costs have been slashed to $30 a month in an effort to drive attendance. He’s not worried that charging less money will make it harder for Community Partners of Lumberton to recover its investment.

“We didn’t go into this thing to make money,” he said. “It’s not a labor for profit; it’s a labor of love.”

The Lumberton Racquet Club will be open for the season before the weekend. Returning members should have plenty of time to soak in all of the upgrades as the facility’s hours of operation have been extended.

The courts and pool are open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Mondays and Wednesdays; from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays; from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays; and from 1 to 6 p.m. on Sundays.

The Lumberton Racquet Club and Pool is located at 4901 Fayetteville Road in Lumberton. For information, call 910-739-6060.