Arrivals at the new Fort Collins Bridge Club first see a large table filled with finger foods and accompanied by a full coffee and tea service. The carafes are never empty and there is no dish looking for donations. Sometimes there is even wine in the afternoon. Director Robyn Leming is close, greeting incoming players. The large playing area is decorated in the bridge colors red and black and is ready for action.
This is new. Although table counts increased 10% annually over the years prior to 2020, a Fort Collins area bridge center did not exist. The opportunity to establish a stand-alone location became possible only after long-time director Marlene Aranci announced she would be retiring in two years. When Robyn developed and presented a financial plan to the board showing that a physical center run by her would be financially viable, Marlene donated her two clubs to Robyn. John Wolf contributed his club as well. These major gifts, accompanied by significant personal remodeling labor from the board and area bridge players, formed the foundation upon which Robyn built her operating plan.
The center opened in January 2020. But the Covid-19 crisis changed everything. The new Fort Collins Bridge Center, like the rest of the country, shut down for safety. But it was especially vulnerable: as owner, Robyn bore sole responsibility for the multi-year lease. In response, board members and others, unbidden, mailed financial contributions to the center. Also, the Unit 363 board paid a rental fee for the storage of duplicate equipment for part of the year the center was closed. Beyond this, the board developed virtual games through Bridge Base.
The center began opening in the spring of 2021 and became fully open in June.
Robyn maintains a welcoming atmosphere. In addition, she mounts a major phone effort daily to find partners for players who need one. “I’m relentless,” she says. “My goal is that nobody stays home because they don’t have a partner. This is the only way to keep the numbers up.”
From time to time the brackets will be adjusted to meet the needs of players, such as raising the 0-499 games to 0-750. The unit also established an “NYPD (New Young Players Division) and has used the ACBL’s “Learn Bridge in a Day.” Several lesson series have been made available both online and at the bridge center in order to broaden access.
Fort Collins bridge leaders agree that only with the support of Robyn Leming would the center have survived the Covid crisis. As a longtime player and former director, John Wolf declares, “Robyn is one of the leaders of Northern Colorado bridge.”
Interested players can visit the center at Suite C-5 Riverside Plaza, 725 S. Lemay Ave., or contact the center at FortCollinsBridgeCenter@outlook.com