Ahuntsic-Cartierville bocce club hopes to keep its courts and club alive

Click to play video: 'Golden age club in Montreal at risk of being shut down'
Golden age club in Montreal at risk of being shut down
WATCH: A Bocce club with hundreds of members is at risk of being shut down. The Ahuntsic-Cartierville borough no longer wants to pay the rent where the members play. The senior citizen players would be forced to move to a church basement – but the location doesn’t have enough space for bocce games. As Global’s Elizabeth Zogalis reports, the members of the club are fighting to stay where they are. – Nov 17, 2022

Montreal’s opposition party says it will do whatever it can to support a club in Ahuntsic-Cartierville fighting to keep its bocce courts.

The city says it will stop paying the rent on the building in July 2023, but politicians and Italian community organizations want the borough to reconsider the decision.

The bocce club has been fighting to stay alive since last August, when it received a letter from Ahuntsic-Cartierville Mayor Émilie Thuillier stating the borough would no longer pay the $211,000 annual rent after Dec. 31, according to club spokesperson Cecilia Fazioli

“She had issues and problems with the landlord since 2018, but we never knew anything about it,” said Fazioli.

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The borough agreed to extend the lease until July 2023 to allow time for the club to come up with its own money.

“We are going to do everything in our power to save it but we’re not talking about 18-year-olds where you can have events,” said Fazioli. “You know, we are 75-plus. We want peace.”

The borough has already offered to give the club members space in a community centre and in a nearby church basement but there would be no room for bocce.

Club members and several Ensemble Montreal councillors said the offer is unacceptable.

“It’s like telling a swim team, we will take away the pool but don’t worry, we’ll give you a football field so you can practise there,” said Effie Giannou, city councillor for Ahuntsic-Cartierville.

“Those people work all their life in Montreal, so is that the way to say thank you to our senior citizens?” added Cantal Rossi, city councillor for Montreal-North.

Most of the 450 members are over 75 years old and make every effort to stay physically active. Margherita Morsella, president of Comites Montreal, a local organization for Italians, says for many of the members, losing the club would be devastating.

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“It not only gives the opportunity to play bocce, it gives them an opportunity to meet, to socialize, to keep sane,” said Morsella.

Thuillier said it was a hard decision to make but when the city factored in the cost of rent per player, it determined it was no longer realistic.

“Two hundred thousand dollars for about 200 members? It’s like we are giving $1,000 per year, per person and we don’t give this to anybody,” said Thuillier.

She adds that the city is doing what it can to offer support but it will be up to members of the club to come up with their own financial plan.

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