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BMW dealership may buy tennis club

BMW of Ridgefield’s new showroom building along Route 7 has been open about a year, and the dealership wants to buy the Ridgefield Tennis Club and use the area of its courts and bubble, behind and right, for parking. —Macklin Reid photo

BMW of Ridgefield’s new showroom building along Route 7 has been open about a year, and the dealership wants to buy the Ridgefield Tennis Club and use the area of its courts and bubble, behind and right, for parking. —Macklin Reid photo

BMW of Ridgefield on Route 7 has contracted to purchase the adjacent Ridgefield Tennis Club to provide a storage area for cars.

“We need it for more parking to support the business growth,” said Ed McGill, lead partner in BMW of Ridgefield. “We’ve got remote parking up the street where we have approximately 150 cars.”

The deal isn’t final yet — among the contingencies are a permit application due to come up before the Planning and Zoning Commission June 11.

But Andy Bodner, club owner, informed members and regular players of the plans in an email blast this week, wanting to allow them adequate time to make plans for their fall tennis.

“It is with much sadness that I write to inform you that I have accepted an offer to sell the tennis club property to the BMW dealership,” Mr. Bodner wrote.

“This sale is subject to conditions, and so might not occur, but everyone should assume that the Club will close Aug. 24.”

He said “this has been a very difficult decision to reach. I appreciate all the support of the members over the years and take great pride in the facility improvements that have been made and in the outstanding staff that has made the Club what it is.”

Eric Erhardt, who owned Ridgefield European Motors, which sold BMWs and other imports, built what was then one of the area’s first indoor tennis facilities in the early 1970s.

The club was later moved to the back, with six outdoor courts and a removable winter “tennis bubble.” The former indoor tennis building was rented for a time as warehouse space to a computer cable firm. It later became part of the car dealership, again.

A rear clubhouse and pool were added.

Mr. Bodner, a Ridgefield selectman, has owned the club for 12 years. He recently added two courts, bringing the total to eight.

Over the years it’s been called Ridgefield Tennis Club, Ridgefield Athletic Club, Sugar Hollow Racquet Club, and Cross Court Lifestyle.

A joint public hearing of the Planning and Zoning Commission and Inland Wetlands Board Tuesday, June 11, will consider both an amendment to a special permit for the business use of the property, and plenary ruling for work in the wetlands at both 746 and 748 Danbury Road — the BMW dealership and the tennis club. The lots would have to be merged to allow the use of the rear tennis parcel as parking for the dealership.

Earlier this year the tennis club property was rezoned to be included in the B-2 business zone that the dealership and other business properties along Route 7 are in. And Tuesday night the Planning and Zoning Commission approved a new “Gateway Zone” that adds retail to the permitted uses along Route 7, including both properties.

Mr. McGill, who recently celebrated the one-year anniversary of the opening of the new dealership building, said his business is thriving and growing and can use the space buying the tennis club will bring.

The dealership currently rents space at the Pond’s Edge medical office park property, and parks inventory and employees’ cars there. “We have a shuttle van that fits like 12 people,” Mr. McGill said.

The dealership is five acres total, with some wetlands and four “usable” acres, Mr. McGill said. The tennis club is little over eight acres, including a pond, and has about five acres of usable land.

“This allows us to get everything on one lot and relieves cars going back and forth on Route 7.

“And it gives us the possibility over time to further the development of the property as the business continues to expand.”

And at BMW of Ridgefield, business is good.

“We just celebrated our fifth anniversary on May 8. We’ve been in the new building for a little over a year and business is good, so we keep expanding our services,” Mr. McGill said.

“The used car business is expanding. The new car business is expanding. We do refinancings now, for customers.”

Adding the tennis club property will enlarge the possibilities.

“With the expansion we can expand the ability to have more quality used cars on the lot, which will then drive more service business.

“It’s kind of self-promoting,” Mr. McGill said. “The more cars we sell, the more service business we’re getting, the more parts we’re able to sell.

“And, it’s all good for business.”

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