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Newport’s Palisades Tennis Club to lose more than half its courts after lease is not renewed

Palisades Tennis Club
The Orange County Breakers and Springfield Lasers play at center court at Palisades Tennis Club during a 2017 match. The club is losing a large portion of its land, including this court, after one of its landlords declined to renew a ground lease.
(File Photo)

Newport Beach’s Palisades Tennis Club is losing one of its leases and must vacate its clubhouse and nine of its 15 courts by 6 a.m. Monday.

The local tennis institution, which operates under two separate leases, learned that one of its landlords, Russ Fluter of Newport’s Fluter Properties, declined to renew the club’s ground lease.

The club averted the same scenario in August with a grassroots appeal to Fluter. But it wasn’t able to repeat that six months later.

Palisades, at 1171 Jamboree Road, occupies a parcel on the northeast corner of the Hyatt Regency resort and a piece of land immediately adjacent that is owned by Fluter.

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“After careful consideration and negotiations with Palisades Tennis Club, we could not renew the lease,” Fluter said in a statement this week. “We are exploring options to create a sustainable, long-term parking solution for the 2.8 acres of land, which currently includes a 9,000-square-foot building, and intend to lease the property and maintain it for recreational use.”

Palisades will continue with its parking lot and front six courts on the Hyatt Regency parcel.

Palisades owner Eric Davidson said the club, which subleases its space from the Hyatt, maintains a good relationship with the hotel and its landowner, a private equity real estate firm based in Los Angeles.

In a letter to club membership last weekend, Davidson said he would move a modular building onto the parcel to house “as many full-facility services as we can manage,” including a small bar, social area and bathroom. Until that building is in place, the club will use a member’s travel trailer.

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“Our hope was that Mr. Fluter would negotiate with us to continue our leasing relationship. I have done my best to work with him,” Davidson said in the letter. “However, negotiations have now come to a standstill. We must face the fact that it’s time to implement the backup plan.”

The club had about 500 members six months ago. This week, it had less than 400; it lost about 25 on Tuesday alone, Davidson said in an interview. He can’t blame them, he added.

Chris Garber, a 10-year club member, will stick around. She said she thinks the club will survive, but “it just won’t have the same special feel.”

At Palisades, Garber, who manages electronic data for pharmaceutical giant Allergan in Irvine, said she found people who work hard and play hard, blowing off stress, getting a workout and making relationships through tennis.

She said she wishes the club’s soon-to-be-former landlord would offer more details about his plans for the property.

“I don’t understand why Mr. Fluter didn’t renew our lease,” Garber said. “Palisades Tennis Club is a huge part of the Newport Beach community.”

Fluter’s property includes the multicolored center court, which is home to the Orange County Breakers professional tennis team. The Breakers run a three-week summer season that serves as a tune-up for the U.S. Open.

Davidson also owns the Breakers and co-owns World TeamTennis, the eight-team league they play in. He said he has tentative deals with two nearby tennis facilities for the 2020 season.

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“As the Palisades Tennis Club owner, I’m very disappointed that we’re losing the Breakers,” he said. “As the Breakers owner, we’ll play where we need to play.”

In addition to Breakers matches, Palisades hosts member and benefit tournaments and youth camps. Davidson said Palisades will hold all other events as scheduled this year, including a high school boys’ tournament planned for March.

Davidson recently purchased Palisades from Ken Stuart, who pitched the club concept in the 1970s to an Irvine Co. executive with the assistance of legendary actor John Wayne, one of Newport Beach’s most famous residents. The Irvine Co. previously owned the Fluter parcel.

The John Wayne Tennis Club opened in 1974 under a 45-year ground lease. Stuart renamed the club in 1995 when he bought the operation.

The Palisades name was formerly attached to a five-court club on Bristol Street in Costa Mesa, which Stuart closed 25 years ago when he made the move to Newport.

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