‘The club has not paid the stipulated lease amount to the government for more than 44 years’
Authorities on Saturday began demolishing the Union Club, a sports-cum-recreational centre in the city, for its failure to pay lease dues to the government.
Officials led by the District Revenue Officer began removing things like chairs, tables, sofa, fans, air conditioners and sports equipment. Some pleaded with officials to halt the plan considering heritage value of the club. They told the officials that cases were pending in Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court over the dispute on lease dues and recent action of officials on sealing the premises.
But officials told the members to remove the belongings by noon. By the time the furniture and other items were removed, demolition of the main building, which was constructed in 1907, began. The earth mover pulled down a portion of the building by 4 p.m. Except for tennis courts, all other buildings were demolished. No one was allowed to enter the premises during the drive.
“It is painful to see the building being razed. Officials have failed to note that the Union Club has hosted a number of International Tennis Federation men circuit tournaments,” says J. Narashimhan, a member of the club.
The officials said that the club had not paid the stipulated lease amount to the government for more than 44 years. Notices were served on many occasions but the office-bearers did not take step to solve the issue.
A senior official said it had been decided not to disturb the tennis activities in the club. The tennis courts would be brought under the control of the District Sports Officer. The players could use the courts as usual by paying a subscription.
Union Club was the second major club that was demolished in the city. In May 2019, the corporation demolished the century-old City Club on West Boulevard Road after a legal battle. Sports infrastructure including badminton and tennis courts on the premises, which served the people for more than 100 years, were dismantled.
The Union Club on Bharathidasan Road in Cantonment was set up before Independence. Several Indian Civil Service officers and important personalities including former MLA E.P. Mathuram, T.M. Narayanaswamy Pillai, P. Rathnavelu Thevar, and T. Desikachariar had been the honorary presidents of the club. It has excellent infrastructure for sports such as tennis, table tennis, billiards and other games. It has been a popular sports centre in the city.
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