A shuffling of YMCA gyms is having a ripple effect down to a local athletics nonprofit.
The Virginia Squash Racquets Association is relocating its headquarters from the James Center YMCA to the Downtown YMCA at 2 W. Franklin St. It is raising $175,000 to finance the move.
Though it operates throughout the state, Virginia Squash is headquartered in Richmond and hosts many of its youth camps, adult recreation league games and tournaments here.
Among the nonprofit’s programs is Squash Rocks, a youth education and mentoring program that it runs with fellow nonprofit Church Hill Activities & Tutoring.
“We work with kids mainly from the Church Hill area that are in middle school or high school to teach them on-court squash, as well as provide meals, transportation and mentorship,” said John Patton, vice president of Virginia Squash’s board of directors.
In December, the YMCA of Greater Richmond announced it would move its downtown tower location from the James Center to the SunTrust Center at 919 E. Main St. Patton said Squash Rocks has operated out of the James Center YMCA for eight years and was suddenly without a home.
“What’s that saying, ‘Necessity is the mother of invention?’” Patton joked. “We were able to work with the YMCA to create an arrangement that we’d raise the money to create three squash courts (at the Franklin Street location) and to create a de facto home for our children and create a very significant squash center in Richmond,” he said.
Patton said there are about 10 squash courts in Richmond, and two are public. At the Franklin St. YMCA, work is underway to convert three racquetball courts into squash courts, which are about a foot narrower and 10 feet shorter.
“It’s a significant thing for the squash community, and it comes from the hearts in helping the Squash Rocks programs,” Patton said, noting that the new facility will give Squash Rocks a permanent home.
Patton said Virginia Squash is in the midst of a $175,000 fundraising campaign to convert the courts and fund operating expenses of Squash Rocks.
The amount raised to date was not disclosed, but Patton said Virginia Squash has received support from local individuals and foundations including The Community Foundation and the Virginia Sargeant Reynolds Foundation.
Squash Rocks serves about 25 children throughout the year and has about 20 volunteers along with professional coaches.
Patton, who still plays, says he’s bullish on the future of squash, particularly at the college level.
“The game is similar to racquetball in the sense that the ball has to hit the front wall and you cannot let it bounce twice … the game is played with a little more prolonged points, a little more cat-and-mouse,” he said.
“What distinguishes squash is it’s one of the fastest-growing collegiate sports … What a success story for us it would be to take a youth and have it be his pathway to Dartmouth or Yale.”
Virginia Squash reported $93,000 in revenue for 2017, according to nonprofit database GuideStar.