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Saturday, April 19, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 57.0° F  Mostly Cloudy
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Madison gets the squash courts it deserves
Making a raquet

Damon Bourne at the new Madison Squash works.
Damon Bourne at the new Madison Squash works.
Credit:David Medaris
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"It's been a longtime KBAM!" Damon Bourne says, "to open a proper KBAM! club here in KBAM!" The KBAM! of pneumatic hardwood flooring staplers echoes in this cavernous warehouse south of the Beltline off Fish Hatchery Road. The three obscured words are "dream," "squash" and "Madison" - where contractors are bringing Bourne's squash-club dreams to life.

Bourne, 42, is a 25-year veteran of the game. He carries a 5.5 rating on the racquet sport's six-point scale. A technical writer for software companies including Persoft and Sonic Foundry, he and business partner Jay Knight are opening Madison Squash Works at 3118 Kingsley Way.

After moving to Madison in 1993, Bourne grew frustrated by the lack of regulation international courts here. The area's existing facilities are limited to six at the UW's Nielsen Tennis Stadium, and even these are North American hardball courts, which are 18½ feet wide. International courts are 21 feet wide. If a 30-inch difference sounds insignificant, imagine how a commensurate change would alter your tennis game.

"We need to have proper squash courts in Madison," Bourne contends. There are scores of names on the Madison Squash Association's email list, and the number of international courts is increasing in Chicago and Minneapolis.

Establishing Madison Squash Works last year as an LLC, he and Knight set about looking for a suitable building with high ceilings. Finding this shell, Bourne and his wife bought the property. MSW retained Destree Architects to design the facility and Wyldewood Construction to build it. A new cement floor was poured, the shell insulated, the courts framed out, walls plastered and glassed in, wood floors laid. There's no phone yet, but there is a website:

A couple weeks ago, Bourne and some of the club's charter members played the first games at the new club. Using a softer ball than the North American hardball familiar to most local enthusiasts, the international game calls for agility and fast-twitch muscle response but also endurance. You can still hit the ball 120 or 130 miles per hour, Bourne notes, but it loses more of its pace after it hits the front wall. This makes for longer rallies. "In squash, the better you get, the longer the points are," he explains. "It's not unusual for a rally to last 40, 50 shots. It's a very strategic game. You're always trying to get your opponent out of position."

In addition to hosting amateur and professional tournaments, Bourne wants Madison Squash Works to be family-friendly, with a program modeled on Chicago's Metro Squash initiative, which combines squash with schoolwork and community service to help underserved students reach higher academic goals.

Work on the new facility continues during mid-February's soft opening. Basic one-year membership rates are $90/month, or $1,000 paid in full, with discounts for students. A two-month trial membership costs $180.

The official grand opening is scheduled for March 27-29, with clinics and an exhibition match between Irish pro Brian O'Hora and England's Mark Heather. Their participation reflects the game's 19th-century English origins and its spread throughout the British Commonwealth.

Bourne wants all the club's members to bring a flag from their home country. "One of our members brought me back a flag from Kuwait. We have Canada, New Zealand, Australia, Argentina, Venezuela. Did I say India? That's one of the things I like about squash: meeting people from all over the world."

And soon, perhaps, from all over Madison.

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