Originally created 09/06/98

Flood damage sinks club sale



Somehow the yellow fliers posted in a display case outside Forest Hills Racquet Club remained untouched during Thursday's heavy rain and flooding.

"Coming in October -- A New Pro," the fliers proclaimed.

That probably won't be happening now.

Club owner Doug Kilgour had negotiated a deal to sell the secluded club to a tennis pro from Salem, Conn. The deal was to be sealed Oct. 1.

But then 8 1/2 inches of rain pelted Augusta, and normally gentle Rae's Creek overflowed its banks. The orange water ravaged the club's 13 tennis courts, seeped into the clubhouse and spilled into one of the pools -- an estimated $155,000 damage.

"The sale is gone now," said Mr. Kilgour, who isn't sure he wants to spend the money, time or energy to repair the damage again.

On Friday, some of the club's 175 members still called requesting courts for the weekend, but Mr. Kilgour had to tell them the club was closed. He didn't know when -- or if -- it might reopen.

"I don't know what to do," he said. "I really don't know where to begin."

In October 1990, four months after Mr. Kilgour bought the tennis club, flood waters walloped him with a $500,000 repair bill.

After Augusta was declared a disaster area, he received a loan from the Small Business Administration to do the repairs. He's still repaying it.

Mr. Kilgour and his wife, Liz, have fought other battles with Rae's Creek since the major flood in 1990.

"This would be the fifth time in the last eight years that my wife and I would have to put our own money back in the club," he said, recalling several occasions when the clubhouse carpet had to be replaced or deep cleaned after creek water washed inside.

"We've kept going into savings over and over again to keep the club going," he said. "I'm not going to waste my money on this anymore. So what I am going to do now? Right now, I don't know."

Like most people with businesses and homes in the flood plain, Mr. Kilgour has flood insurance. But it only covers damage to the clubhouse and its contents, not the tennis courts or the pool or any maintenance equipment stored in a shed.

On Friday, the clubhouse floors were still muddy, the industrial-style carpet was soggy, and dirt ringed the walls two feet up, marking the flood line.

A Good Humor ice cream machine sat in a puddle of water. When Mr. Kilgour discovered the machine early Friday, it was floating in the clubhouse, and he's still not sure it will ever work again. He's also uncertain what will become of a Coca-Cola cooler, which has water beads clinging to the glass.

Despite all the apparent damages, it would probably only cost $25,000 to $30,000 to repair the clubhouse, Mr. Kilgour said.

The clay and asphalt tennis courts will be costlier to repair, he said.

Insurance also won't pay Mr. Kilgour to rebuild a ruined cross-creek bridge, which has become the symbol of Forest Hills Racquet Club.

"The one thing that made the club attractive and unique is the one thing that destroyed it -- Rae's Creek," he said.