As fundraising for the CLC YMCA master facility plan continues, the Y’s decision to remove the Wayne W. Plummer Racquetball Court has been met with criticism from members of the community.
CLC YMCA CEO Meagan Hamblett said the racquetball court will not be a part of the redesigned facility, a decision made due to lack of use of the court.
“For the entire month of November, the court only had 14 hours of reserved use,” Hamblett said. “With the master facility plan, we’re trying not to add any space we don’t need to, and when you have a space that is being underutilized, you need to look at the possibilities.”
Hamblett said the sport of racquetball had its heyday in the ‘70s and ‘80s and has since been on the decline. In athletic facilities across the state, Hamblett said spaces devoted to racquetball have been converted into weight rooms and studios for fitness classes.
“Racquetball needs a very specific, dedicated space,” Hamblett said. “We are limited to what we can do in there based on the size of the room.”
As part of the master facility plan, the racquetball court will be converted into a studio for cycling classes.
“We want to make the best use of the donors’ dollars, and we need to do what’s fiscally responsible,” Hamblett said. “We’re trying to renovate existing space instead of having to create new space.”
The decision has been met with criticism from regular users of the court. Jay Zoller, of Newcastle, said the racquetball court is the only reason he uses the YMCA facility. Zoller makes an effort to meet a group of people to play racquetball twice a week.
“There were rumors and whispers about removing the court for a while,” Zoller said. “When the news went public, we went and talked to the CEO. She assured us our membership would be accepted at the (YMCAs) in Boothbay and Bath, but I don’t want to drive there just for that. I’d probably just get rid of my membership.”
Barry Knott, of Damariscotta, has been playing racquetball on the court since it was built. Knott said he knows there are a number of people who share Zoller’s view and would give up their memberships if the court is removed.
While he has noticed a decline in the popularity of the sport, Knott said racquetball still has a devoted following.
“The people who play racquetball tend to be older folks, and personally I think that might be because the younger generation isn’t exposed to it until later in life,” Knott said. “It’s a sport that hasn’t really been promoted much.”
George Shaw, of Newcastle, agreed, saying racquetball could see an increase in interest if the sport was promoted more to kids.
“The interest comes and goes, and we don’t know if it will be played in the future,” Shaw said. “But once the court’s gone, it’s gone.”
The Y’s decision is also drawing negative feedback because the court bears the name of the late Wayne Plummer. Plummer was a co-founder of the Central Lincoln County Recreation Center and the first executive director of its successor, the CLC YMCA.
Plummer’s daughters, Abby Plummer, of Bar Harbor, and Lindsey Plummer, of Nobleboro, oppose the decision to remove the court named in honor of their father and his dedication to the facility.
“In 1976, our father helped found the Central Lincoln County Recreation Center and became its first executive director,” Abby and Lindsey Plummer said in a statement. “In addition to building construction, skilled fundraising efforts, program development and oversight, and impeccable leadership, he was responsible for guiding its transformation from a rec center into the CLC YMCA.
“His involvement, efforts, dedication, and passion for promoting physical activity led him to work tirelessly for the organization for 21 years. He was well-known for his generosity and gregarious nature. The Y would not be what it is today without him.
“Since his unexpected death in 2006, community members continue to approach us to share the impact our father had on their lives through his service at the YMCA. The dedication of the racquetball court not only honors over two decades of his service to the YMCA and his passion for racquetball; it also is a way of recognizing the support, inspiration, and love he gave to this community.
“Although the culture of physical fitness has evolved a great deal since the Y’s beginnings, each and every activity has a place within its program offerings, a philosophy our father strongly believed in. Many YMCA members and current users of the racquetball court have expressed feelings of sadness and disappointment that the facility may be removed, describing how it feels dishonoring to remove a memorial which has celebrated an individual who dedicated so much of his life to this organization.
“As Wayne’s daughters, we would like to echo these sentiments, and we truly appreciate the community’s recognition of our father’s impact on the YMCA. We would be grateful if the organization could continue to uphold the community’s wishes to honor his dedication to the CLC YMCA.”
Knott said he and Plummer used to play in racquetball tournaments across the state together. After Plummer passed away, Knott helped develop the Wayne Plummer Memorial Racquetball Tournament. The 10th annual tournament will take place Wednesday, Jan. 13.
Hamblett spoke with Plummer’s sisters, Penny Davala and Roxanne Moore, when the decision to remove the court was made. Duvala, who worked at the CLC YMCA for 24 years, said both she and Moore felt their brother would understand the decision to remove the court.
“He was a businessman, and he would have favored any intent to grow the Y to make it successful,” Davala said. “If the Y is losing money on the court because it wasn’t being used, he wouldn’t have gone along with it.”
Davala and Moore also discussed the court’s removal with the siblings’ mother, Madelyn Pierce.
“We all feel this is about the Y, it’s not about the court being named after Wayne,” Davala said. “It’s about doing what is best for the facility, because that’s what he would have wanted.”
Hamblett said a plaque in honor of Plummer will be placed on the legacy wall, a part of the master facility plan dedicated to telling the history of the CLC YMCA.
Hamblett said no changes to the facility will be made until fundraising is completed, which is estimated to be by the end of 2016.