The most recent efforts to revive the long-struggling Westside Tennis Club were abandoned in May, when the Miami-based partnership that purchased the property eight months ago was dissolved and the sole remaining owner finally – wisely – pulled the plug.
There’s no good reason for anyone to try again.
The financial investment needed to breathe new life into the worn-out facility, neglected in too many ways for far too many years, is no longer worth what surely would be a disappointing and probably dismal return.
Even a conservative estimate would put the cost of the overhaul the club needs at $500,000, and that doesn’t include the purchase price of the property, which sold for $575,000 when Ramon Amilibia’s Sports World Association bought it last September.
So why bother?
Not only would paying the monthly bills be a challenge, but there’s probably no realistic chance to turn the kind of profit necessary to justify the initial investment.
“That’s the mistake made by the people from outside Vero Beach,” said Alain Mignolet, who has owned the Twin Oaks Tennis Club on Sixth Avenue for 28 years. “They see this beautiful property. They hear that Vero Beach is a tennis town. They hear that area is growing, see all the new construction and believe they can make it work.
“But there’s something they don’t know.”
They don’t know that Vero Beach, which has a lot of tennis players for a community of its size, doesn’t have enough players to adequately support the clubs already here – particularly the independent clubs on the mainland.
For years, in fact, Westside struggled to compete with Twin Oaks, The Boulevard Tennis Club and especially the Vero Beach Tennis Club at Timber Ridge.
“The club hasn’t made money in 25 years,” Mignolet said.
Not much changed when Westside was sold to the Amilibia partnership, which included tennis pros Danilo Zivanovic and Greg Levy.
The new owners didn’t significantly improve the facility and eventually lost more than a dozen members who complained that the courts had become too dangerous to play on.
“All we asked was that they give us safe, playable courts, and they couldn’t even do that,” said Dick Habeshian, one of more than 20 former Westside members now playing at the Vero Beach Tennis Club. “They said all the right things when they came in, but they didn’t follow through.
“They were absentee managers, trying to run the club from Miami,” he added. “At the end, they had a very indifferent attitude.”
By then, though, Zivanovic and Levy – Amilibia was the money man – surely knew they had misjudged the Vero tennis market. They knew Westside would never become what they had deluded themselves into believing.
They realized what many longtime members of the Vero Beach tennis community have known for years: There are too many clubs and not enough players to make all of them profitable.
And the recent resurgence of The Boulevard, which was bought by a new ownership group in January 2017 and has more than doubled its membership over the past 18 months, has made the challenge even greater for the mainland’s other clubs.
So Amilibia folded.
Even if you got it for free, I don’t think you could make money there,” Mignolet said.
So why bother?
Westside’s demise actually makes the Vero Beach tennis community healthier – because there’s still the same number of players in town, but one less club for them to join.