The Power of Community Unites New Lexington Tennis Club
LEXINGTON, MA - The power of community is on full display in Lexington, MA. Reminiscent of the mythological phoenix, the former Mount Auburn Club’s tennis community has risen from the ashes and become the driving force behind the new Lexington Tennis Club (LTC).
Lexington Tennis Club, which opened in February, is the outgrowth of a close collaboration between dedicated tennis players and teaching pros from Mount Auburn Club in Watertown. Led by the management team of tennis pros including Darren Becker (President/Executive Director), Zack Goodstein (Director of Operations) and Matt Gelotte (Director of Tennis & Facilities), Lexington Tennis Club exists as a continuation of longstanding tennis relationships following the pandemic-driven closure of Mount Auburn Club.
“It was rough when the club closed in July 2020. I was angry, and many of us didn’t see it coming,” Becker said. “I started thinking to myself and talking to others and realized what a great group of people we had here who love playing tennis with each other and pros who enjoy working with each other. We wanted to maintain those relationships and prevent the group from dispersing.”
With the community’s near unanimous support, Becker, Goodstein and Gelotte took matters into their own hands. They formed a core team of former Mount Auburn Club players and other pros who shared their vision of keeping the tennis community together. They created a business plan and began the search for a new facility, all while keeping the Mount Auburn faithful involved through consistent email updates.
It wasn’t until October, after previous proposals fell through, that Becker and crew caught wind that the former Boston Sports Club Lexington location had shut down. They met with the building owner, and after a few months of refining the scope and terms of their proposal, the group came to an agreement in mid January to lease the facility that was once BSC Lexington.
While the previous club operated the entire facility, including indoor/outdoor pools and a fitness center, Lexington Tennis Club opened strictly as a tennis facility. The LTC team felt that with limited funding, it would be best to focus initially on their main area of expertise and then reassess down the road.
“We decided to go with a tennis-specific model. From the beginning, we asked the community if they’d be okay with a facility that exclusively focused on tennis, and the answer was overwhelmingly yes. In fact, it was almost 90 percent. We took what we liked from Mount Auburn, refined it and made it our own,” said Goodstein.
Lexington Tennis Club incorporated as a non-profit, and with the help of experienced business-savvy volunteers, formed a four-person Board of Directors, all of whom were part of the Mount Auburn community in some capacity.
“We really had so much help getting things off the ground and we couldn’t have done it without people who have more experience than we do. Our Board consists of volunteers, and our lawyer helped us for months pro bono since his wife is a member of the club,” Becker said. “That’s been a big part of our story, not having one person who knows everything, but having confidence in this community as a whole which can move this thing in the right direction. People believed in the cause and wanted to be a part of it.”
- Lexington Tennis Club Management Team from left to right: Zack Goodstein, Darren Becker, Matt Gelotte.
- Lexington Tennis Club Management Team from left to right: Darren Becker, Zack Goodstein, Matt Gelotte.
- Lexington Tennis Club has brought in staff from the former Mount Auburn Club.
For many, opening a sports facility amid a pandemic is unthinkable. Financial difficulties, distance restrictions and overall skepticism and uncertainty would deter many from launching a project of such magnitude. But backed by community support and the socially distant nature of tennis, Becker said he was pretty confident in proceeding with the operation.
“With COVID numbers rising in January, we could’ve easily not opened February 1 as expected, and that was a bit daunting,” he said. “Looking around, we noticed that clubs just offering tennis were thriving. It seems that people felt pretty comfortable playing tennis, so it’s not a bad business to be in right now.”
Community members were so eager in anticipation, more than 100 bought memberships before the club’s opening date.
“People knew who we were and how committed we were to this project. They had enough trust in both us and the community that was behind us to join even before walking in,” Becker added.
The club now boasts nearly 200 members and is filled with a host of former Mount Auburn staff.
“The transition was great and the members know us already, so there wasn’t that introductory period,” Goodstein said. “The average membership of the old club was 20 years, so we have people here who really know each other and are happy coming back and seeing old friends, which is exciting for us.”
Currently, the four-court facility offers both private and group lessons and plans to expand by the summer. They hope to incorporate USTA League tennis, clinics and more and will tailor programming to member demand.
Lexington Tennis Club aims to hit 300 members by fall of 2021 and turn the club into a tennis and social destination, similar to what Mount Auburn provided for its members. The team has made it a priority to provide adequate time on the court sheets for members to book their own match play, which contrasts with tennis club models that are geared mainly toward programming. Most importantly though, the Lexington Tennis Club team exists to reignite that sense of community that’s been put on hold for a year.
“We’d like this place to be a bustling community for tennis. Our goals are to keep our ears to the ground and stay in close contact with our members to make sure we’re able to meet their real needs, and if we’re able to do that we’ll be successful,” Becker said. We’ve put a lot of work into this, especially before anyone was getting paid, and it’s definitely something we’d like to keep alive as long as we can.”
Following the suggestion of several community members, the LTC team decided that a phoenix rising from the ashes would be apropos to represent the club. A longtime member volunteered to create the logo, which to Becker, displays the ultimate symbolism.
“The phoenix represents the Mount Auburn community crumbling and rising again in new manifestation. It’s also referential to everything we’ve all been through with the pandemic,” he said. “It has caused so many kinds of dissolution, and this is very much a product of the kind of regeneration that’s possible in a pandemic.”
To learn more about Lexington Tennis Club, click here.