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“It’s a fun workout:” WAC in West Allis the epicenter for court sports like racquetball, handball

WEST ALLIS -- Find a racquetball enthusiast and you'll wonder why the sport has fallen from its peak popularity of the early 1980s.

"You burn about 800 calories an hour playing racquetball. I'd say it's a fun workout," Trish Beatty, WAC West Allis general manager said.

"It's a chess match at 100 miles-an-hour," Jimmy Crawford said.

"For singles, it's a lot of mental toughness. For doubles, it's a lot of camaraderie with your partner, a lot of hand-eye coordination, great footwork. You can play it at any age," Beatty said.

Racquetball at WAC West Allis

Just ask 60-year-old Jim Crawford, who teams up regularly with his son, 29-year-old Jimmy.

"I love the fact that you get a great workout, but it occupies your mind so much that you don't even realize how hard you are working. The older I get and the creakier my knees are, the less I can play, so to try and stay in shape I have to do other things, which, to me, are much less interesting and less fun," Jim Crawford said.

Racquetball at WAC West Allis

The fitness industry is enormous in America today, which is where the rub comes in for racquetball.

"There were hundreds and thousands of players in Milwaukee that were playing regularly. Now, there's unfortunately a fraction of that number because the revenue per square foot is just no good as far as the business of racquetball," Jim Crawford said.

Racquetball at WAC West Allis

That makes the Wisconsin Athletic Club in West Allis essentially an island. There are still 10 courts at the facility, which get used for racquetball and handball. It is not unusual to see all 10 in use on any given evening.

You can find racquetball courts at various places, but you can't find this many racquetball courts anywhere else, and that makes the Wisconsin Athletic Club in West Allis the epicenter for court sports.

"We host the largest league system in the nation," Beatty said.

Racquetball at WAC West Allis

That designation, from the International Health, Racquet and Sportsclub Association (IHRSA) is empirical evidence of racquetball remaining a priority at this property. There is anecdotal evidence as well.

Racquetball at WAC West Allis

"I drive from Bay View to work to here in West Allis to play to Glendale home because of the people, because of the courts, because of the atmosphere. There's a club a mile from my house and I'd rather come here," Jimmy Crawford said.

Racquetball at WAC West Allis

It's not hard to find an enthusiast if you know where to look.

The club in West Allis will hold a big national tournament this summer, but also caters to those who might want to just try to the sport, with lessons and free equipment.

Racquetball at WAC West Allis