APRIL 2020

We reported about 16-court Palisades Tennis Club in June of 2014 when it was owned by Orange County tennis personality and occasional TCB contributor Ken Stuart. 

Palisades Tennis Club

 

From the club's website: A great tennis club is not defined by tennis alone. We, at Palisades Tennis Club, measure success by providing our members with the total private club experience. We have an atmosphere of fun tennis mixed with social interaction that is unbeatable and is key to our success on and off the courts. We are the CLUB for everyone.

The facility opened in September of 1974 under its original name John Wayne Tennis Club. Ken Stuart designed the original Club and its first General Manager. Ken's achievements as a tennis pro and club owner are highly recognized throughout the tennis community.

 

In 2017, Ken Stuart was inducted into the Southern California Tennis Association Hall of Fame.

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TALE OF TWO PARCELS

by Rich Neher

 

 

Not sure how I got hold of a February 27 article in the Newport Beach Independent. Maybe someone sent it to me. The headline caught my immediate attention. It read Palisades Tennis Club Splitting Up, But Playing On. Now, I knew of the Palisades Tennis Club and I've been there, met with the former owner, Ken Stuart. Beautiful club, great pros, many happy members, restaurant and bar, a gem of a community in Newport Beach.

The article by Sara Hall describes a calamity I was not aware of. In fact, I'd never heard about such a situation before. Ever. And the current owner, tennis personality, WTT Chairman and Co-owner and owner of the WTT team Orange County Breakers Eric Davidson, was in a no-win situation it seemed.

 

Sara Hall writes, "Palisades Tennis Club sits on two separate parcels of land at 1171 Jamboree Rd.

 

The first parcel, comprised of courts 1–6 and the parking lot, is leased from the Hyatt Regency Newport Beach, which has recently renewed their lease with Palisades, club owner Eric Davidson confirmed in a phone call on Wednesday.

 

The other parcel, comprised of the back half of the tennis club property and the clubhouse building, is owned by Newport Beach resident and real estate investor Russ Fluter. No deal has been made and Palisades has been ordered to vacate the property by Saturday."

Let that sink in for a moment. A thriving and gorgeous 16-court tennis facility sits

on two land parcels. The lease for the parcel with 8 courts is being renewed. The

lease for the remaining 10 courts including a stadium court and clubhouse is not

renewed at all and the owner of the land obtained a judgment for the tennis club

to vacate his property by February 29.

Palisades Tennis Club iconic front entrance

Shutting down the clubhouse and moving all club possessions including furniture, nets, lights from the Fluter property within a few days was nearly impossible. The backup plan? Hall writes, "Palisades officials will move a modular building with as many full-facility services as they can manage, including a pub, social area, and lavatory facilities, onto the Hyatt property to replace the current clubhouse. They will operate with the six tennis courts that are on Hyatt land. Palisades members will still be granted access to Hyatt pools, workout facility, and restaurants."

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The article came with a note: *EDITOR’S NOTE: On Friday, Palisades officials wrote on social media that “last-minute negotiations have opened up” and the move-out date has been pushed back as they work on a long-term deal, with the possibility of a 10-year extension. In the meantime, things will go on as normal at the Club.*

Clubhouse with Café and terrace adjacent to center court

March 6 we had the pleasure of talking with Eric Davidson on the phone. He was still positive about the club's future after Russ Fluter's attorneys had reached out to him again, offering to start negotiations for another 10-year-lease extension.

Questions for Eric Davidson

TCB: Eric, when exactly did you buy the Palisades Tennis Club?

ED: I bought the club in January this year.

TCB: Is it fair to say that you guys went through a lot?

ED: Yes. A week ago Friday morning we prepared to vacate the club by mid-day and facing eviction the following Monday.

TCB: What happened after Mr. Fluter's attorneys reached out to you?

ED: We received a new lease two days ago and now we're negotiating again. We already see the rent will triple for us.

TCB: How are the club members dealing with all this uncertainty?

ED: Unfortunately, we lost about a third of our members in the process. There are about 400 members left now.

Eric Davidson with his 2017 WTT trophy.

TCB: Assuming your lease gets renewed now, what are your plans for the club?

ED: The club is more than 40 years old and in need of renovation. Long-term we need to replace furniture, carpets, paint, add a fitness room and expand the Café. 

TCB: What about the courts?

ED: Because the Orange County Breakers play here and our many high-profile events, we resurface center court every year. The other courts get resurfaced as needed.

Center court view from the clubhouse

TCB: How many pros do you have?

ED: Nobe of our pro left through the ordeal. We have six pros, including Robert Van't Hof, Billy McQuaid, and Dave Sherbeck. The latest addition to our pro team is Scott Davis.

TCB: How old were you when you started with tennis and who got you into it?

ED: I was 6 years old. My dad was a good club player and he got me into it. I played seriously at 13 or 14 years of age and then played High School and College tennis at UC Berkley. My dad and I played doubles together until about 20 years ago.

TCB: How did you get into the business side of tennis?

ED: I was in the senior living business. Sold my company Vintage Senior Living in 2016 and retired. A close friend of mine, Rick Leach, enticed me to purchase the Breakers. In January of 2017, I did this and at the same time purchased half of the WTT League. I became their Chairman and together with my partner, Fred Luddy, we control six of the nine WTT teams.

TCB: Is Billie Jean King still involved in the league?

ED: Yes. She owns the Philadelphia Freedom franchise and a very small share of the league.

TCB: Are the Orange County Breakers making money for you?

ED: Since ticket sales are never enough to bridge the revenue gap, the franchise is at best able to break even. Our ultimate goal: to sell sponsorships and media rights.

TCB: Is the WTT CEO Carlos Silva doing a good job for the league?

ED: I am very happy with Carlos. Last weekend we had the all-star celebrity event he planned at La Costa Resort in Carlsbad. It was sold out and we had lots of sponsors.

TCB: Have you played Pickleball?

ED: I did. It was fun but I'm a tennis player. Since there is no demand for Pickleball at our club, we have no plans for it.

TCB: What's your tennis racquet of choice?

ED: It's the Wilson Ultra.

TCB: Thank you, Eric.

Center court view from the clubhouse

All's Well That Ends Well

 

Yep. The world is back in order for the Palisades Tennis Club and its members. And I am very happy for them. At a time when more and more tennis clubs are disappearing all over the country, we need to applaud Eric Davidson for not giving up and staying in the fight with unending optimism. (How he twisted Ken Stuart's arm to come back to run the club is another story.)

Here is the announcement on the club's Facebook page last Saturday:

March 14, 2020
FINALLY!
LEASE SIGNED, SEALED AND DELIVERED!

 

Dear Member,
 

Yesterday, Friday, March 13, 2020, the Palisades Tennis Club signed a new ten-year lease with landlord Russ Fluter. Our future as a club is now secured and we have significant plans for the long-term health and future of Palisades Tennis Club.

I know the past seven months have been nothing short of Hell for you and our dedicated employees. The first goal is to bring back some calm and stability to our operation. To that end, there are a few things that I think you will appreciate immediately.

 

First, I am bringing Ken Stuart back to supervise the entire club operation for me. He will serve in the same capacity he has for the past 25 years.

 

Second, I plan on making some improvements and refurbishments to our clubhouse facility. In addition, we are putting plans in place to enhance the employee experience so that they can continue to serve you at the highest level.

Finally, we will come up with a plan to get our membership numbers back to where they were a year ago, including bringing members back from other clubs that they fled to during the recent turmoil.

 

On another note, we have some information regarding the coronavirus issue. The bullet points below are a compilation of information received directly from the CDC, Stanford University and the International Health and Racquet Sports Association:

 

• Physical activity and exercise can help boost immune function (especially outdoors)

• Exercise lowers stress

• Physical activity is good for metabolic health, and

• Our tennis club and tennis courts are clean and safe.

 

There is likely nothing better for you than exercising outdoors. You are advised to stay away from groups of 250 people or more. If possible, stay away from nursing homes and wash your hands with great regularity. We recommend you wash your hands before and after playing tennis. Finally, keep your mouth and nose moist – drink water more often than normal.

Again, I will be in contact with you early next week with more details.

 

Please accept my sincere gratitude for each and every one of you that stuck with us through this debacle.

 

Thank you for your loyalty and continued support. Exciting things to come!


Eric Davidson

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