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Owners put Racquet Club of Concord back on the market, say deal with owner of Manchester health club is ‘no longer’

A sales deal for the Racquet Club of Concord has fallen through, and the health club on Garvins Falls Road is now listed on the open market for $1.8 million.

Mike Benton, who owns the Executive Health and Sports Center in Manchester, had planned to buy and renovate the 1970s-era Racquet Club in the image of his existing upper-scale health club.

In November, Benton signed a purchase-and-sales agreement for the Concord property. In January, the city’s planning board approved his multimillion dollar renovation plan for the property. At that time, Benton told the Monitor the renovations could begin within three to four months.

But this week, he said securing architectural plans and financing delayed a final closing on the sale, and the Racquet Club owners decided not to continue their agreement with Benton past its expiration May 15.

By not signing an extension, Benton said they “chose to kill the deal instead of going the last leg.”

Debbie Nelson, whose family owns the Racquet Club, confirmed the agreement with Benton has ended.

“It’s no longer,” Nelson said.

Nelson declined to comment on why the family’s company, Concord A.C. Tennis Division Inc., did not preserve the sales agreement. Her father built the club in 1972, and she has been working there since 1979.

The company put the club on the market May 17, Nelson said.

“It has been my desire to sell it as a health club,” Nelson said. “Whatever comes our way, we’ll take it.”

Benton said he asked for a 45-day extension on the purchase-and-sales agreement when it was set to expire in mid-May. He had finally received the architectural drawings he needed to finalize the financing with the bank, Benton said, and he expected to close on the Racquet Club by the end of June.

“That’s the last phase, and (Nelson), for whatever reason, didn’t want to grant me the right to do that,” Benton said. “She cut my legs out from underneath me.”

As he hired engineers and obtained permits from the city for his project, Benton said he encountered “problem after problem after problem.” But this extension was to be the final one, he said.

“I spent a lot of money to bring the project to this point,” he said. Benton would not disclose what he had offered to pay for the club or any other terms of the dissolved purchase-and-sales agreement, but he did say he could still be interested in buying the property.

Carlos Baia, deputy city manager for development, said it is not unusual for a building project like this one to take months to progress.

“There are projects that take several years to materialize. . . . The timeline, I don’t think, was anything that far out of the ordinary,” Baia said.

City records also show the Racquet Club is up against nearly $200,000 in outstanding property tax bills.

Mike Jache, the city’s treasurer and tax collector, said Concord A.C. Tennis Division owes about $190,019 in unpaid property taxes on the Racquet Club property dating back to 2011.

That doesn’t include about $30,730 that will be due this year, Jache said. The first installment of that bill is due July 1; the second, Oct. 1.

The city gives a property owner 30 days to pay an overdue tax bill before placing a lien on that property, Jache said. If those taxes are still unpaid two years and a day after the lien has been placed on the property, the city can take it.

So if the Nelsons don’t pay about $58,000 of their outstanding debt to the city by the end of June, they could lose the Racquet Club.

“They have until June 30 to pay their 2011 taxes, or at that point, the city could take the property by tax deed,” Jache said.

Nelson declined to comment on the club’s outstanding tax bills. She said the Racquet Club, which has about 800 members, would stay open while it is on the market.

“We’re entertaining all offers,” she said.

Nelson’s real estate agent, Art Bonin of A. R. Bonin Companies LLC, said interest in the property has already been “very favorable.”

“Obviously, it needs a little bit of TLC,” he said. “And that’s why we’re trying to orient it to the prospective investors and buyers who would update the property.”

The real estate listing for the Racquet Club advertises its 9½ acres as full of “expansion possibilities.” The asking price is $1,795,000, which is also the property’s value listed on the city’s assessing database.

“Act quickly, priced for immediate sale!” the listing reads.

(Megan Doyle can be reached at 369-3321 or mdoyle@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @megan_e_doyle.)

I think Debby (the Nelsons) did the right thing. The so called "done deal" lasted over a year - time to move on and give other interested parties a chance to buy and renovate the place. My interest is tennis, and we tennis players want to see a shiny new interior around and above the courts. The other areas of the club need a super-overhaul too and once everything is done I can see membership grow well past the 800 current members. Whoever buys the club needs to make sure the place looks brand spanking new, not just with paint and new carpets but by replacing the tennis court ceilings and making sure the weather "stays outside" when we are on the tennis courts. Good luck to the new buyers, whoever you may be. Just know that many of us who have been active at the club for many years have waited a long time for "fresh new look" in all areas of the club.

Hard to know who's REALLY at fault for this deal falling through, but the bottom line is it sucks for Concord. RCC's "Bodypump" class has changed my life for the better and if they close I'll have to go all the way to Manch - or further - to take it.

Kudos to you, Hunter_Dan, for not posting Before & After 'Bodypump' pics.

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