Federal Way tennis scene mourns Bally closure | Slideshow
By ANDY HOBBS
Federal Way Mirror Editor
December 9, 2011 · 2:21 PM
Longtime patrons at Bally Total Fitness lost more than just a place to play tennis. They lost a community institution.
Bally closed its doors Dec. 8, following the company’s recent acquisition by L.A. Fitness. Aside from being a fitness facility, Bally was embraced by the Federal Way tennis community as a social hub for friends and families. Located at 32818 1st Ave. S., Bally hosted multiple U.S. Tennis Association (USTA) tournaments and local high school competitors throughout the year.
Aside from the Federal Way branch, the loss of Bally locations in Kent, Olympia and Tacoma deals a blow to the South Puget Sound indoor tennis scene. Aside from taking their game back outside, many of the Bally customers said they’d consider indoor alternatives like the Boeing Employees Tennis Club, despite the higher price.
A tennis pro at the Federal Way Bally said the combined closures — 15 out of about 200 USTA-approved indoor courts in the state — affect hundreds of players.
A few dozen diehards gathered for a farewell potluck lunch Thursday at the Federal Way facility’s three remaining tennis courts (click here for slideshow). Most of the members had been playing tennis for at least a decade at Bally, whose parking lot is consistently full. Several members had children and grandchildren who practically grew up on these courts.
Harry Folster started playing on the tennis courts when they were first opened in 1977. In fact, he and his wife, Sharon, purchased their home in Twin Lakes because of its proximity to the club. At that time, the facility was called Town and Country. It was later renamed Pac West Tennis, and eventually became Bally in the mid-1980s.
“We’ll find something,” Folster said. “Life goes on.”
John Cassens, director of tennis at Bally, is optimistic that Federal Way players can find a new home. His daughter, Meghan, was a standout at Decatur High School who got her start playing tennis at Bally. Now she plays tennis at Iowa State University.
“This place is an institution. People are stunned,” said Federal Way resident Don Payne at Thursday’s farewell gathering. Payne has used the facility since 1979, and appreciated its affordability and atmosphere.
Before hopping onto the court for a quick set Thursday, Annie Horn noted the camaraderie among fellow tennis enthusiasts.
“We are like family,” she said. “I know everybody in this room.”
Fitness International LLC, an affiliate of L.A. Fitness International, has acquired the assets to 171 Bally Total Fitness clubs nationwide. Bally membership at the Federal Way location has been transferred to the L.A. Fitness at 35009 Enchanted Parkway S. Several customers who bought lifetime memberships were initially told that L.A. Fitness would not honor those memberships, but according to Folster, that position has since changed.
Contact Federal Way Mirror Editor Andy Hobbs at firstname.lastname@example.org or 1-253-925-5565 (ext 5050).