Sammamish Club moving in new direction | Long-time tennis hub shifting to youth soccer facility

On March 1, the Sammamish Club will become Arena Sports and begin its shift from tennis to soccer.

For 25 years, the Sammamish Club has been home to some of the most respected tennis instructors and accomplished players in the region. In the coming months, it’s new owners hope the club retains its sense of community and continues to act as a gathering place, only around a different sport.

Arena Sports, an organization focused on youth and adult soccer clinics and leagues, is slated to close its purchase of the property on March 1 and begin several renovations that include the removal of the club’s four indoor tennis courts. That area will become home to the signature of Arena Sports, indoor soccer fields, as well as inflatable play structures.

Larry Mounger was one of the original owners of the club when it began as the Mark Frisby Tennis Academy in the 1980s and played for the University of Washington during his time as a collegian. He and Frisby said the transition is necessary, but still difficult after so many years.

“I have very mixed emotions,” Mounger said. “I’m really sorry that tennis is not going to continue.”

The Sammamish Club currently employs six USPTA or USPTR certified tennis instructors, including Frisby, with nearly 150 years of combined experience. It has become known over the years for its tennis programs, which cover a broad range of abilities and age levels.

Frisby, who is also the tennis coach at Seattle University, said he coached more than 200 nationally ranked players and upwards of 2,000 who have garnered a USTA regional ranking in the Pacific Northwest during his time at the Sammamish Club.

“I’ve been blessed to work with great people and I’m thankful for that,” Frisby said. “Life brings these things and for me, I’m just thankful for the people I got to teach and got to know, they are unbelievable people.”

The owners had been hopeful a group composed of current members would be able to purchase the club and keep it focused on its roots in tennis, but that plan did not materialize.

Alison Bailey has been a member at the club for eight years and is the captain of a USTA team that will call it home for only three weeks longer. She said her team and several others have made arrangements at Eastside Tennis Center for the remainder of their schedule. But she said for many of herself as well as many of her friends, the initiation fees and dues at the other tennis clubs in the area are simply out of her price range.

“Most of the other teams are going to be split up or have their home matches absorbed by other clubs,” she said. “We’ve been playing on teams together for six or seven years and we don’t know what we’re going to do.”

Instead the city will welcome one of its own in Arena Sports and CEO Don Crowe, who has called Issaquah home since 1998.

Crowe purchased the company that same year and has helped turn it into one of the most popular sports outlets in and around Seattle with three facilities and a host of satellite locations. He moved to Issaquah the same year he became Arena Sports CEO and said the company already has a following there as well as in Sammamish.

“I wanted to get involved in a business my whole family could be involved in,” Crowe said. “We don’t go after the elite athlete, we go after the 50-year-old mom who has never played. It’s about fun, safety and community.”

Crowe’s own family is heavily involved in the company, including his wife, who was key in the development of the signature Arena Sports venture, Lil’ Kickers. That program currently operates at the Pine Lake Covenant Church and Crowe said the increased visibility and capacity of the Sammamish Club facility will only add to the options for Issaquah and Sammamish residents in search of a field or league.

“I want it to be a cherished community resource,” he said. The indoor pool and fitness areas will remain open and the club will continue to operate as a fitness center, in addition to the soccer-focused programming of Arena Sports and Lil’ Kickers. Arena Sports will invest around $1 million to give the existing facilities including the locker rooms a makeover and purchase new exercise equipment, among other upgrades.

While the tennis community at the club will soon be left waiting for sunshine to make outdoor courts accessible or looking for a home at one of the other tennis clubs on the Eastside, soccer enthusiasts and those hoping to remain active will have a new home in Issaquah.

“I’m very excited,” Crowe said. “I’ve been driving by here for 16 years and I always thought it would be great to have soccer here.”

Arena Sports CEO Don Crowe, right, said he is excited to bring the company to the place he calls home. JOSH SUMAN, ISSAQUAH-SAMMAMISH REPORTER

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