VIEWPOINT: A sense of place

by Ronald T. Vera

Every town needs a watering hole. Sometimes two or three. They can be the skateparks for youth, the local barber or beauty salon, or the pastry shop.

Today we see the watering holes arise at the local craft beer pubs that replace the taverns of our grandparents. Claremont has several watering holes and we often overlook their value until something happens. Such is the Claremont Club.

While some residents may dismiss the outpouring of dismay over its closure as affecting only the few who can afford the monthly dues, there is a ripple effect from its pending closure. A number of people will lose their jobs, and the summer rite of passage for swim lessons will have to find a new venue. Our tennis courts will become more crowded, and the pickleball families will search for vacant parking lots. But more will be lost.

The individuals who have gone there each day at five in the morning or my neighbors who, like clockwork, are there for the afternoon workout: they too will need to find respite somewhere.

What will be lost collectively if the Claremont Club ceases to exist is what every watering hole brings to a community—much like the weekend religious services—a sense of fellowship, a loss of belonging to a place.

It is a gathering point for learning who has wed, who is sick, who is moving, who needs help, just the idle mischievous gossip that keeps us murmuring for another week. Yes, too, is the loss of the ability to sweat, run, grunt and remiss about the age toll on ourselves.

In the past few days, I have remarked to several members that we can take efforts to keep this “Club” open. Twenty years ago, I served for several years as chair of the board for the Pomona Valley YMCA and learned a few things about the economics of similar clubs like the Claremont Club.

I also was appointed by the National YMCA to serve on a national advisory committee to identify what makes the YMCA special from the generic fitness clubs that operate under a for-profit model. The kindred spirit that allows the YMCA to operate as a not-for-profit, tax-exempt organization, could be applied to the Claremont Club membership structure. 

One example is the community health center in San Angelo, Texas, which exists as a tax-exempt not-for-profit mutual benefit association. It is very successful.

Anyone who has been in Arlington County, Virginia, can attest to the wealth of community recreation centers throughout the area that are partially subsidized by tax dollars.

There are also certain membership pricing models in running a community health center that could be readily adapted to this situation. Moreover, there are several business partners, both private and public, that can be explored. 

The Claremont Club can be saved. It may not fit the current structure as before, but with creative thinking, some sweat equity from lawyers, accountants, a few bankers, and most of all, the support of its members, there are a myriad of ways in which the purchase and acquisition of the Claremont Club assets will allow this watering hole to continue, and to thrive, for the benefit of all of Claremont and our surrounding communities.

Quite possibly we can even be a model for what other communities can embrace. Certainly, we need to be reminded of the need for a watering hole and the health risks of being moribund.

In other words, what is there to lose in trying to resurrect the Claremont Club? Perhaps only the additional pounds we have gained from staying house bound these past few months. 



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