What's the Racquet?
Celebrating 80 years of sport and socializing
at the Manhattan Beach Badminton Club
- Written byAmber Klinck
If you associate the game of badminton with outdoor leisure and backyard barbeques, think again. In reality the sport itself, and the competition surrounding it, is incredibly intense.
“The bird goes over 200 miles per hour,” explains Kenneth Schwartz. “It’s an extremely intense, highly athletic, extraordinarily ballistic game.” As a member of the Manhattan Beach Badminton Club, Kenneth gets a front row seat to watch some of the world’s best in action.
Founded in 1936, the club is celebrating eight decades in the South Bay, serving as “an iconic venue in the badminton world for over 75 of those years,” Kenneth notes. Hosting national tournaments, Olympians and players from all over the world, the Manhattan Beach Badminton Club is the oldest club on the West Coast completely dedicated to the sport.
But there’s more to the club than its highly competitive spirit. There’s a social element that has solidified its role in the South Bay community. In addition to the trophies and awards displayed in the main hall, there are walls lined with photos from various social events—the who’s who of the town as well as a num – ber of club members, many of whom didn’t even play badminton.
“The whole idea of the club having this incredible sport element mixed with a social environment makes it very unique,” explains Kenneth. “What tells the story of this club to me is the logo. You can see the badminton component, but there’s also a jester coming out of a martini glass.”
On the weekends, the BBQ and bar area next to the pool bustles with club members enjoying their time with family and friends. Members have enjoyed cocktail-filled soirees, costume parties, luaus and dances during the club’s 80-year stretch.
During the ‘50s, when Manhattan Beach was flooded with pilots and flight attendants, and the ‘60s, when the South Bay became a hub for engineers, the club has maintained its balance of sport and play. However, it has evolved immensely since its origin in 1936. What began as a tiny space on Marine and The Strand developed into three courts and a clubhouse on 18th Street and Ardmore.
The move was a result of the efforts made by a small group of members who raised money by doing a comedy and music routine at the Pier Avenue School. The money enabled them to buy “seven lots for $255 each,” explains club mem – ber Peter Steinbroner. During the ‘40s, other than the occasional summerhouse, the club was the only structure there.
In 1951 the pool was built; in 1967 the lounge that exists today was constructed. In 1969 the original three courts were torn down, making way for the 1970 construction of the five current courts. “The courts are unique in that they’re wood,” Peter notes, “rather than the portable courts with the matlike surface.”
The club has changed in many ways and served many purposes since its origin, including housing the U.S. Army after the start of WWII. (The officers stayed on the courts, and the artillery and tents were on 19th Street.) But it has consistently been a source of pride for its members, who have served as Manhattan Beach ambassadors to the many international players who have trained on the club’s courts, as well as during their own international travel.
“To have players come from this club and play at the world level says a lot for the coaching that goes on here and the growth of the sport nationally and inter – nationally,” says Kenneth. Whether utilizing the resources available to maximize their ability as players or simply enjoying the social scene, the members of the Manhattan Beach Badminton Club have everything they need tucked away in the heart of town.