The Salmon Arms Club Miracle

Publisher’s note:

In 1984, my good friend Tom Serviss, a former Quebec Nordiques player, asked me to provide mentoring opportunities for a young tennis enthusiast from Vernon, B.C.. Winston Pain came to London, Ontario, worked the summers from 1984-1987  for All Canadian, entered Western University and stayed in London, where he met his wife Cathie before returning to Salmon Arm.

Winston Pain, Ken Hecker pictured above with Pierre Lamarche

This past summer, while visiting Winston, I discovered the miracle of the Salmon Arms Tennis Club, which shows the synergy created by individuals committed to “If we start it, we finish it.” So proud of you, Winston and your team. Here is their story.


Winston Pain & Ken Hecker

In 1977, the Salmon Arm Tennis Club was formally registered as a Society under the BC Societies Act. The application was made with the City of Salmon Arm to lease 2 acres of land originally used as a refuse dump to the Salmon Arm Tennis Club( SATC) for $1 per year. A perfect marriage of municipal lands and a vibrant Non-Profit Tennis Club was formed, leading to a 1st class tennis club!

Shortly afterwards, in 1978, a bank loan was secured, and the newly formed club’s volunteers built four beautiful tennis courts! Volunteerism has always been the backbone of the SATC, proven once again in 1979 with the construction of the clubhouse by volunteers and contributions by various businesses and contractors. The club was appropriately named the “TAHENA HOUSE” to acknowledge the leadership of three members- Ahti Takamaki, Ken Hecker, and Doug Hlina. Ken Hecker and Doug Hlina were to play critical roles in the future construction of the Askew Tennis Centre 41 years later!

In 2005, state-of-the-art Musco Lighting was installed on the four outdoor courts, providing extended seasonal play for members.  In addition, the courts have been re-surfaced every five years, prudently paid by setting aside reserves annually for the capital expenditure.  

The Salmon Arms Crew

Since it opened in 1978, the SATC has been a model volunteer-operated Non-Profit Seasonal Tennis Club Membership that has averaged 150-200 people since inception and is a very active part of the community. A quality tennis experience has been offered to the community for over 40 years, and the SATC is a well-regarded club in the interior of BC.  Every year in April, we host a community open house with pancake breakfast and racquet demo day. In addition, 6 TPA certified members provide a variety of lessons to youth, adults, and senior players. In 2021, Jumpstart funded over 200 local kids to receive 4 -one-hour classes in the new Askew Tennis Centre, one new racquet and ball for each child.  

The club offers ladies, men, mixed doubles and senior league sessions weekly and operates numerous tournaments throughout the year. The Salmon Arm Open is one of the interiors of BC’s most significant events attended by local and regional players alike. Finally, the SATC has received national recognition, with several of our members winning National Senior Tournaments, playing on National teams, and of course, winning the National Miele Team Championships in 2010!

For a community of 20,000 people, this should be enough to satisfy the tennis-playing needs of its community, right?   Guess again!

Indoor Tennis Project:

In 2010, Hecker gathered the information for three indoor courts and provided options to the membership. Mandated to continue with the idea of building three permanent indoor courts, Hecker and Winston Pain partnered together. It worked on many tasks to make the project a reality, such as building a solid business plan, obtaining variances with the city, lobbying local businesses to raise funds, talking with politicians for possible grants, and soliciting support overall in the community.

Insultation Day at Salmon Arms

After a brief break from 2013-2015, where the project was “put on the shelf” due to lack of grant funding, the membership asked again to resurrect the indoor tennis efforts. The Indoor Tennis Committee (ITC) was set up with Hecker and Pain as Co-Chairs and three other members rounding out the leadership group (JP Flament, Don Ross, and George Elamatha). This time around, the approach was based on a sustainable funding approach to achieve the goal and not dependent solely on grants or possible large donors. 

Critical in the proceeding was obtaining city approval to “co-sign” our construction loan, as the club sits on city-owned land. The citizens of Salmon Arm granted permission via the Alternate Approval Process in 2017.  The project hinged on arranging the required funds to the end of the project, whereby the SATC could access the construction loan to complete the project.  From 2017 to 2019, funds were raised in numerous ways, such as arranging Building Naming Rights (“Askew Tennis Centre”), as well as two courts (Salmon Arm Savings, Credit Union and the Bonthuy family–Johan Court). 10-year memberships were pre-sold, and tax receipt donations were solicited from members and local supporters through Tennis Canada. 

The ground was broken in the late fall of 2017, and construction began! The fundraising and planning continued, and the ITC always knew a shortfall existed but were confident the gap would be filled as the project neared its end. “If we start it, we finish it” was the ITC mantra from the beginning!

In 2018, the project hit a significant obstacle. The U.S. economy, led by the initiatives of Donald Trump, spiked the price of steel. Tariffs were on the horizon, and the SATC needed to secure a significant amount of steel.  The SATC approached its influential partner/landlord – the City of Salmon Arm – for help.  

The City council quickly approved a loan and grant package that allowed the SATC to buy steel from two separate suppliers, but the steel price had increased by $200,000 due to the impending tariffs. The funding gap widened at the worst possible time for the project as the membership volunteers had completed the foundation, but the structure needed to be erected.

Team Photo

Construction of the building was completed from 2017 to 2019. Econospan Structures, owned by Doug Nelson, provided incredible support and leadership throughout the project, particularly in the financial and administrative areas working with the various professionals involved. The building was led by the outstanding leadership and knowledge of Doug Hlina, a retired master builder, who volunteered 100% of his time & expertise to oversee the entire project. Contractors performed much of the technical work required, such as electrical, mechanical, and roofing, but the “Hlina-led” volunteers did the lion’s share of the work. In addition, Timberline Solutions, owned by Jordan Baer, provided critical construction expertise and support in areas that the volunteers were unable to complete to piece construction together. 

As the project neared completion, the membership and supporters were called on again to raise the final outstanding amount (due to unforeseen steel tariff price increases) by Issuing Promissory Notes.  Without surprise, they responded, and the monies required to finish construction arrived.  Final Occupancy was received by December 2019, and the Askew Tennis Centre was open!

The Salmon Arm Tennis Operating Committee (SATOC) was set up in 2019 as a Standing Committee to operate the entire club assets. Reporting directly to the Board of Directors, SATOC is composed of member volunteers as the budget currently does not allow for a paid manager.  Members of SATOC are as follows: Winston Pain and Bill Spencer, co-chair; members include Ken Hecker, Marianne VanBuskirk, Don and Carol Ross, and JP Flament. 

COVID-19 impacted operations from March 2020 until now, but the SATC/ATC has proven to be resilient and determined as it moves through the challenges.  As stated, volunteerism is the backbone of the Salmon Arm Tennis Club. The SATC will continue to move forward with the efforts of many hands to continue to show communities in Canada, big or small, that organizations like ours can achieve significant accomplishments. A focused, concerted effort, combined with commitment, perseverance, and effective leadership within cohesive communities, can do great things!!

In short, it truly is a modern-day miracle that a community of 20,000 people in the interior of BC was able to build a $2,800,000 3 court permanent indoor facility (together with four existing outdoor lit courts) with a debt of only $1,150,000.  The collective power of the community of Salmon Arm showed how a truly aligned community with a committed city council & staff and the commitment and determination of the Salmon Arm Tennis Club could achieve great things together.

Askew Tennis Centre

A quick summary of the highlights of the Askew Tennis Centre:

  • 10,000+ volunteer construction hours.
  • Raised $720,000 cash from various sources such as grants, tax receipted donations, building and court Naming Rights, and donated materials from local contractors and businesses.
  • Debt at completion was $1,150,000.
  • Completed value of the building is $2,800,000.
  • “Sweat Equity” valued at over $1,650,000.
  • Project included three annual fundraisers (dinners, silent auctions) that netted over $40,000.
  • 3 Wine fundraisers netting over $5,000
  • 1 garage sale (netted $2,900).
  • Project spanned nine years (2010 to 2019).
  • The SATC membership is approximately 150 -200 members. 
  • Hosted Grand Opening June 2019 with Daniel Nestor in attendance, and over 300 people attended the daytime ceremony and 175 at the dinner/silent auction evening event.

It is respectfully submitted by Winston Pain, SATC Director and SATOC Co-Chairperson.


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