Chicago next in line for an outdoor community project forged in steel
By ROBERT GIBRALTER – Squash Mad Correspondent
Not since the installation of a squash court on the Titanic has a single court, surrounded by tons of steel, caused so much excitement.
Unlike the court on the Titanic, we expect the open-air steel court installed at the Maspeth Welding Company in Queens, New York, to survive a little longer.
Not only is the Maspeth court spearheading a global conversation about open-air courts making the game more visible, after decades of our sport being hidden away inside private buildings, it is ready to host its first tournament.
Many famous names in squash are listed in the 64-player draw, including former England internationals Chris Walker and Alister Walker, top US pro Spencer Lovejoy, golden couple Nathan Lake and Hayley Mendez, former US No.1 Tim Wyant (now CEO of the urban squash collective SEA), Canada’s Chris Sachvie, and a host of names that will be familiar to followers of squash in America and many other parts of the world.
In a top-quality entry list, 20 players have been or currently are in the world’s top 100, two women are currently in the top 60, 16 players are rated Level 6 and above, 34 players are rated 5.5 and above, and 42 players are rated over 5.0.
Having this level of endorsement from serious players gave us the confidence to look beyond the New York horizon to build open-air courts in locations that would help squash to imagine a new and exciting future, embracing new communities in the process.
Making those dreams come true is now a work in progress.
Plans are taking shape for a major new steel-court complex in Chicago that will bring the squash and arts worlds together in a significant community project.
Similar conversations and brainstorming sessions are taking place in different parts of the world right now as more and more squash visionaries get together to imagine a new future for our sport as a fun, open-air activity that is visible, affordable and accessible to all.
The steel court in Maspeth was first ready for play in June 2020, three months after NYC was declared the epicenter of the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic.
Over the next ten months, more than 100 squash professionals in the NYC metro area came out to test-drive the court.
It is a regulation-size singles squash court with three steel walls, a glass back wall, and a wood panel floor suspended on a steel framework, set in an industrial company backyard.
Outside. No roof.
Word spread quickly on social media during a period when most squash courts around the world were closed.
This past Saturday, four squash buddies drove four hours each way from Washington, DC to Queens, NYC for two hours of squash on the world’s first outdoor steel-walled squash court.
Squash and education programs are rethinking future building plans with “outdoor” in mind.
The industrial backyard court is the center of Maspeth Welding’s company wellness and arts programs.
NYC schools are hosting special squash plus educational events in the squash courtyard.
Now for Chicago
Maspeth Squash and JacobsChang Architecture are working together to design and build the world’s first outdoor squash steel courts plus arts plus community public project in Chicago that brings together Metro Squash, Illinois Squash, Lakeshore Sports and Fitness, members of University, Racquet Club, Lifetime Fitness, Onwentsia Club, PSA Foundation, Bulley and Andrews, and more than 30 local and international volunteers.
Interest in outdoor squash has risen again during the past year. Four outdoor courts were created by Carlos Schonenberg for Squash Para Todos in El Salvador, a new glass court is coming this summer to Southampton, NY, new dreams are taking shape, and, there’s a super-duper fun new outdoor squash tournament with new sponsors to squash.
The world’s first outdoor steel court tournament
This summer Maspeth Welding is hosting the Intsel Steel Outdoor Squash Tournament as a way to thank the many professionals, players, and newcomers to outdoor squash who have come out to Maspeth to test drive the steel court.
More than 200 people have played on our court during the past 10 months. Many squash friends played with us right through the winter.
So we invited visitors and friends to play in a summer-long, mixed, pro/am handicapped tournament.
The draw filled up quickly with a mind-bending mix of squash talent. New sponsors stepped out to help: Intel Steel East, Maspeth Welding, Harrow Sports, True Squash, and the PSA Foundation.
Men, women, young and old will have fun mixing it up with other players from Egypt, England, Ireland, India, Germany, Switzerland, Malaysia, Nigeria, Canada, Sweden, Colombia, Guatemala, Botswana, Manhattan, Westchester, Connecticut, Brooklyn, New Jersey, Nassau County, Long Island City, Washington DC and other great squash communities.
The draw includes some of the best professional squash players, squash coaches and trainers, and amateurs competing outdoors in one tournament for the first time.
The Arlen Specter US Squash Center has opened in Philadelphia. Squash courts around the world are filling up again. Tournaments are starting up for pros, juniors, old and new players.
We are hopeful that squash will recover quickly and that outdoor squash will be part of future visibility, viability, and vitality for our great sport.
If you’d like to know what we are learning and dreaming up at Maspeth Squash, please get in touch via our social media platforms.
Maspeth Steel Credits
Company: Maspeth Squash, LLC
Brand: True Squash
Design team: Jeff Anschlowar, Robert Gibralter, Sari Chang (Jacobs/Chang Architecture)
Engineering and Construction: Jeff Anschlowar, Maspeth Welding Inc.
True Squash website
Pictures courtesy of Robert Gibralter / Maspeth Steel