Park Royal mall has informed approximately 30 chess players their game is over as of this week after 50 years of play in the shopping centre, warning of arrest for loiterers.
Threatening senior gentlemen playing a quiet game of chess with arrest was “not a terribly shrewd move,” according to West Vancouver Mayor Michael Smith.
Smith has reached out to mall management on behalf of the chess players. He was told it came down to a business issue of balancing the needs of tenants and customers with increased gatherings of players.
“I think Park Royal will probably take a hard look at the issue and see if it couldn’t have been handled in a better way,” Smith said, adding that was only a guess.
“It’s a vicious move,” said George Ingham, a West Vancouver resident and frequent chess player at the mall. “It destroys Park Royal as a community hub.”
Whoever made the decision is misinformed regarding the nature of the community, Ingham said.
“I would suggest to you that that person doesn’t have a clue what West Vancouver is all about or its people are all about, or the function of the mall,” he said. “(It’s) people meeting people for the last 50 years.”
Ousting the players has meant the loss of one 16-year-old girl’s “chess family,” according to Sophia Hague.
Hague’s daughter, Ashley “Chess Girl” Tapp, started learning the game from Park Royal regulars when she was eight.
She’s competed at the World Youth Chess Championships and promoted chess for girls, but if not for the Park Royal players she might never have learned the game, according to Hague.
“You have to sit at a board and not at a computer,” Hague said. “It’s the only place and only people in the city that welcomed her.”
The loss of that space left Hague “close to tears” she said.
As Park Royal has expanded, the chess game has been a mall mainstay, allowing children to learn the game and offering pensioners a place to swap rooks over coffee and conversation, according to Ingham.
“It’s an unwritten law down there that you look after the people,” he said. “I don’t know how many guys I’ve bought coffee with.”
The move to eliminate the chess tables is myopic from a business perspective, according to Ingham, who said his children and grandchildren frequent Park Royal as shoppers because he brought them there so often.
The mall sent a letter to one of the frequent chess players, offering them $500 assistance in finding a new venue.
Ingham, a Sentinel Hill resident, was nonplussed by the offer.
“You’ve got to be out of your tree. They’re trying to bribe us to bloody well move?”
Ingham is hopeful things can still be resolved peacefully, but he’s adamant it will be resolved.
“None of us want war,” he said. “One thing you can rest assured on, this is not going to disappear.”
Management at Park Royal declined to comment.
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