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Western Racquet Club celebrates 50th anniversary

Although it has grown, focus is still on being 'neighborhood' for members

Jan. 4, 2010

It started as a neighborhood club.

Fifty years later, the Western Racquet Club's neighborhood has expanded beyond Elm Grove to include parts of Wauwatosa and Brookfield, but the club remains a place for families.

"That's something that's … helped differentiate this club and make it a strong club throughout all these years," Board President Jeffrey Holmes said.

The club broke ground on its building in 1959 and was incorporated in 1960. Western Racquet Club plans to celebrate its 50th anniversary all year long, and got off to a good start with its golden gala New Year's Eve party.

"The thing that I've been amazed at, being a resident of Elm Grove, is how many residents of Elm Grove that grew up in Elm Grove returned to raise their families in Elm Grove - and I think the club reflects that same kind of thing," Holmes mused. "I think it still is a neighborhood club."

Within the club, kids learn how to swim and play tennis in the same place their parents did. Highly-ranked tennis players train and compete, as do members of swimming, diving and synchronized swimming teams. Members dine, then stick around long after the meal, socializing with friends.

Begins with a vision

Barbara Baumann's family helped found the Western Racquet Club, and she remembers when her uncle, Robert Davidson, and Paul Grunau saw the land where it now sits.

"They were looking at this land and (Davidson) said, "Look, there's a hole right there. We could put the pool there,' " Baumann said. "They didn't take any mud out, they didn't do anything… 'Let's put the clubhouse up here and then the tennis courts up here,' and that's what they did."

The club was started with families in mind. Baumann said her uncle wanted a spot for his children to swim and play tennis, but the club he belonged to at the time denied a request to build a pool and courts. So, he decided to start his club.

Davidson, Grunau, and Baumann's parents, Gordon and Doris Davidson, asked all their friends for donations toward construction of the Western Racquet Club.

"To think that it all started in 1959, and it's still here - unbelievable," Baumann said.

Maybe even more unbelievable is that the original pool and baby pool are still in use, and still in good condition.

"We have probably one of the few high dives left that I've ever seen at a private club," said Chief Operating Officer Tim Stein.

Staying up-to-date

The Western Racquet Club has grown over the years, with 12 major renovations having occurred since 1990, including the addition of indoor courts, locker room upgrades and the replacement of older tennis courts.

The latest project, completed in May 2009, doubled the seating capacity of the club's dining area, by expanding the patio, which is used for outdoor dining and socializing.

"If there was one major theme for the design of (the patio), it was to create a resort or spa-like atmosphere, and I think that was accomplished," Holmes said.

The patio offers views of the pool and tennis courts, and a shady spot to rest on a hot day. A new fire pit has been a big hit, with members gathering to relax, visit and make s'mores on summer nights.

AT A GLANCE

Western Racquet Club highlights include:

• 14 outdoor tennis courts

• four indoor courts

• heated, Olympic-size outdoor pool

• diving well

• children's pool

• aquatics programs featuring swimming, synchronized swimming, diving and water polo

• fitness center

• personal training

• massage and physical therapy

• clubhouse dining

• business meeting rooms

Visit westernracquetclub.com for membership information.

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