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Tennis club to remain for the people, now by the people

The Ashland Racquet Club and Fitness Center is going out of business. In its place is the new Ashland Racquet Club and Fitness Center. The old club has been purchased by an investor group made up of club members. A grand opening of the new club is planned for Friday, once the deal has been completed.

"Members will have much more input, "said Eric Danson, manager of the new club. "It will be much more membership-driven, which is going to be good for everyone. Everybody's really excited."

The nearly 660 members learned the club was to be shuttered on March — and sold to Craig Bramscher of Brammo Motorsports. Bramscher had planned to expand his high-end custom sportscar business, headquartered in the building next door on Jefferson Street.

Bramscher told the Mail Tribune that he wanted to support the effort of the members to buy the facility even if its delayed his business operation to some extent.

The deal for the club's sale to Bramscher was in escrow, but was cancelled by the club's owner Doug Neuman when the investor group made up of club members formed a limited liability corporation and presented Neuman with an offer.

Neuman will retain a 25 percent ownership. The other 75 percent of the ownership devolves to the investor group of around 25 members and a few interested non-members.

Loyal members and local tennis proponents both were dismayed at the prospect of losing Ashland's only covered tennis facility. Many members were as concerned with losing a social gathering place as much as a fitness center.

A number of possibilities were considered by the members, including an initial plan for a fund made up of a $1,000 investment by each member. That plan, however, did not provide adequate funds for the purchase of the building and the business, Danson said. The funds gathered were returned to members and the smaller investor group subsequently formed, putting together a large enough fund to make the sale possible. Danson would not provide figures for the purchase, but the Mail Tribune reported today that the club sold for $2.28 million.

Old memberships will not carry over to the new club. The new membership fees for full members will be used for a capital fund, Danson said. Tennis members, as well as fitness members who elect to pay extra for full membership, will constitute the club's voting voices.

Although owned by the investor group's LLC, the day-to-day running of the club will be managed by a nonprofit organization created for that purpose.

Danson anticipates the announcement of a promotion to attract new members. The club plans to celebrate its new lease on life with a ribbon cutting Friday at noon.

Kimberly Boesche, a member of the investor group that is purchasing the club said, in response to a reporter's inquiry, "We have been advised by our attorney not to comment." When asked if she would comment not on the specifics of the deal but on the future of the club, she said, "We have been advised by our attorney not to comment."

The Ashland Racquet Club has been operating for 17 years. It is Ashland's only indoor tennis facility and attracts users from as far away as Yreka, Calif. Tennis teams from local high schools and Southern Oregon University use the facility. In addition to racquet sports, the club offers swimming and fitness classes.