The Claremont Club reopening sparks community support
by Justin Katz
photography by Maddie Ybarra
When the Claremont Club suddenly announced its closing August 2020, Dawn and Pete Sharp of Claremont were moved to write an open letter to the Claremont Courier, expressing their dismay. The Sharps became members a year after the Club opened in 1973. “Who knew it would become such an important institution in the lives of so many people and for the city of Claremont,” they wrote. “Along with a whole lot of others, we got up early and went to The Club before work. That became a routine we continued long after we were both retired. We were always part of the 5 a.m. group. We have both been retired for more than 20 years, and we think our Club workouts had a lot to do with keeping us alive and healthy.” The Sharps say in the Claremont Courier that exercise was not all they got from the Club. “The friends we made through our membership have made our life in Claremont special. It is very difficult to think that we will not see our 5 a.m. group in the future. It is the social aspect of The Claremont Club that makes it such a special place in this city.” The Sharp’s end their Claremont Courier letter with a wish to the former owners of the Club: “So dear Clark family, if there is any way at all you can be encouraged to change your minds and hang on to Stan’s dream, we want to ask you to please do it. It is very important to a whole lot of people.”
Perhaps wishes do come true. Someone was listening to Dawn and Pete Sharp and the hundreds of other Club members who were shell shocked with the Claremont Club’s sudden summer 2020 closure brought on by revenue loss from the COVID-19 lockdown. The Claremont Club, its facilities and now valuable land were slated to be sold. Following recent trends in the city of Claremont, the recreational facility was probably going to be razed; the land sold for the building of high density residential housing. Then, seemingly at the last moment, new owners saved the day. The McKay family from Carmel purchased The Claremont Club after hearing the news of its closing.
The McKays quickly posted the following statement on the Club’s web page: “The Claremont Club is a world-class health club, fitness and wellness center located on 19 beautiful acres. We believe that community, fitness, and fun are essential for happiness. This is our mission here at the Local’s Resort.”
The Claremont Club had been around for decades. It was the vision of Stan Clark who entered the then wash land at the base of the San Antonio Dam and started removing the wash rocks, one rock at a time. Clark first opened the Club’s doors in 1973 and started with tennis—then a very popular sport with scarce places to play. Quickly, with revenue from its growing membership, the Claremont Club revamped itself and expanded. Soon, it offered a gym and an Olympic-sized pool, along with a smaller children’s pool and places to play pickleball and racketball. Multiple daily classes— pilates, yoga and aerobics, among others—became the norm. Those who belong, say it has a great atmosphere, and that The Claremont Club continues to unify people in the larger community. People express their encouragement that there is a future for the Club’s continuance.
As the pandemic eases, the Club is resuming with its Pilates and Aerobics classes, as well as offering swimming and tennis lessons. With eased COVID restrictions, the tennis and pickleball courts resumed operation in April 2021. The pool became available for swimming and lessons summer 2021. Children, who were not able to learn to swim summer 2020, were able to join again this annual summer ritual.
The Claremont Club is not only a club, but a family tradition. The experience is whole and meaningful. When the Club closed down during the heat of the pandemic, the community took the hit. At first, members volunteered to keep paying their dues, even though Los Angeles County restrictions kept the doors closed. Most people thought the pandemic restrictions would soon ease by late summer. But by August 2020 it became clear that the pandemic was here to stay, at least for the immediate future, and that is when the Clark family threw in the ownership towel. Multiple members staged protests, complete with signs in front of the facility, located on Monte Vista Avenue. Their signs read, “Save our club!” After several months of being closed, the Claremont Club reopened offering discounts for returning members and lowered monthly fees. Monthly dues for the Claremont Club start at $160 and rise with other features added on. The Claremont Club’s new owners are working hard to return to full capacity to bring the community together once again.