Our vision is to create a club that caters for families, whilst at the same time offering adult individuals the health club experience that they desire.
A message from Matthew Towers
It is very important to us that Club Towers is not only a great place to come and exercise, swim or play tennis and squash. We also want it to feel like “a Club” where members can meet friends, eat, drink and relax in a warm and friendly environment, and hence we encourage this social side of the Club with numerous events throughout the year. We take feedback from our members very seriously and continue to evolve the facilities and operations based on this feedback. As a Club user myself, I notice when things are not quite 100% right and try to ensure problems are resolved quickly and efficiently. I hope that you enjoy using the Club as much as I do!
Why are you trying to build a high-end health and racquets club in Bedford?
In the years leading up to our opening in March 2017, I was asked this same question many times. The implication was that such a club could not possibly succeed or that Bedford was not a suitable place for such a club. And the question came from people who lived in the town as much as from people living outside Bedford. I personally think it betrayed a lack of confidence in the town that I certainly did not share. Anyway, back to that question – let me try to explain why we did it…
Racquet sports in Bedford
I have been a long-standing sports enthusiast, with a passion for competitive sport of all types, but with a particular love of racquets sports. In my view, racquet sports are the ultimate in sporting endeavour, combining power, endurance and strategy – testing the strength of character, the will-power of participants to the limit. It is boxing without actually hitting your opponent! When I moved to Bedford in the late 1980s, it was relatively well served, with the Kimbolton Road squash club, two large tennis clubs (Riverside and Bradgate Road), and some decent pay-and-play facilities. In the following 25 years the world moved on, but Bedford stood still in terms of racquets sports provision. The squash club closed – not to be replaced. Bradgate Road tennis club closed. There was little new investment, and it is incredible that the whole of north Bedfordshire had no permanent indoor tennis courts.
Gyms head down market
At the same time, in the decade before we opened, the town’s gyms and fitness facilities headed down-market. Dragons in Kimbolton Road became LA Fitness and then closed. LA Fitness on Manton Heights was taken over by Pure Gym and cost reduced, removing the swimming pool and Les Mills classes. Other budget gyms sprang up and now dominate the market. Other towns and cities had superb gyms facilities that include pools, spas and state-of-the-art studios, but seemingly not Bedford. This needed to change.
Making it happen
I made a commitment to myself many years ago, when the squash club closed, that if I was ever in a position to improve the racquets and gym facilities in Bedford I would make it happen. And so, when I sold my previous business in 2012, I was finally able to make a start on realising the dream. It has not been straightforward! Buying a suitable plot of land was very difficult, and my thanks must go to the Mayor Dave Hodgson, and the Borough Council for helping me along the way, when I needed their support. We started the planning process in mid-2015, the land purchase was completed in January 2016, and planning approval followed quickly after this.
I worked on the design for over 2 years with Hooper Architects – a Dutch firm with a long history in the sport and leisure industry, and we tried to incorporate all of the essential elements of a high class health and racquets facility. I visited a huge number of clubs across the UK and Holland over a 4 year period to look at best design practice, and this was very helpful when making decisions about what would (and would not!) work. The build took almost exactly a year – commencing on 4th April 2016 and completing in early March 2017, and our main contractors, Pellikaan Construction, did a wonderful job for us, notwithstanding the inevitable teething issues!
The grand opening
We opened our doors for the first time on 20th March 2017, and held our Grand Opening event a month or so later. We were fortunate to have former US Open finalist Greg Rusedski, and world leading squash players Paul Coll and Declan James in attendance to help us with our celebrations.
“So great to see so many youngsters, parents and everyone involved. Not only is this a tennis club, it also has a health club with wonderful gym, squash courts, restaurant and a COMMUNITY. For me, it’s a wonderful thing in Bedford and I am so happy to be here to open it.” – Greg Rusedski”.
The first 5 years
The first five years have been a roller-coaster. The Club thrived in its first 3 years, but then the pandemic struck and we were forced to close our doors for a total of 9 months across three different periods. Our members were incredibly supportive over this difficult time, and once Covid receded we rebuilt our membership quickly, so that today we again operate a membership cap and have a waiting list to join the Club. We run the biggest and best fitness programme in the county, with more than 120 instructor-led classes every single week, supported by our on-line service, Club Towers Live. Squash has seen a renaissance in Bedford. We have a highly active (and sociable!) adult playing membership, with four teams and multiple trophies won. We also have over 75 juniors now regularly playing squash via our own programme and our work with local schools, and have just launched a community squash initiative in conjunction with the Bunyan Centre. We have a very competitive and social adult tennis membership, with numerous league titles, and a large junior programme, including our subsidised performance squad. However, we are certainly not resting on our laurels, and continue to strive to introduce new innovations and improve the Club experience for all of our members.
Our vision remains in the forefront of our minds: to create a club that caters for families, whilst at the same time offering adult individuals the health club experience that they desire. We still strive to make it feel like “a Club” and not just a place where our members come to work out. We take feedback from our members very seriously and will continue to evolve the Club based on this feedback, and the ideas and initiatives of our very dedicated staff team.
We will continue to build on the solid foundations of our early years, and hope to drive greater participation in sport generally (and racquet sports in particular), making Bedford a healthier and happier place to live. If we could produce one or two players who go on to national recognition, that would be a bonus!