The Bridge Center of Austin (BCA) is a duplicate bridge club in Unit 207 (Texas Capital Bridge Association) of District 16 (most of Texas and Mexico) of the American Contract Bridge League (ACBL). It is currently the 40th largest club (based on the annual number of tables played) of the 2,696 clubs in the ACBL.
Prior to 2005, bridge games in Austin were dispersed among various locations and Unit membership was declining. In May, 2005, the Unit hosted a “Unit Growth Seminar,” given by Donna Compton.
Among the recommendations made, the strongest one was the need for one central place to play bridge. This “Center” needed to: have consistent game times; have an education program; be large enough to host large games on the Unit level, possibly Sectionals; and have restrooms and parking facilities adequate for large crowds. The goal was to bring the bridge community of Austin together in promoting the game of bridge.
Although not members of the Unit board, Beth Tobias and Rosemary Kelley attended the Unit Growth Seminar and were inspired by the recommendations. Beth and Rosemary decided that it was worth their best efforts to create a bridge center that met all of the goals stated at the seminar. They began a search for a building that would accommodate bridge games and provide a central location for Austin bridge. A nice, affordable place was found in the business park at 5555 N. Lamar. They spoke to directors of the existing games about having their games at a new facility and began to recruit players willing to contribute funds to open a new facility.
On August 19, 2005, the Partners for Austin Bridge (PAB), doing business as the Bridge Center of Austin (BCA), was incorporated in the State of Texas. Thirteen blocks of shares were sold and the BCA was born. The club opened in the business park on N. Lamar. The facility was furnished and a grand opening was held on September 17, 2005 - just 4 months after Donna Compton suggested this be done. All of the duplicate bridge games in Austin, except the three at the Senior Activity Center (SAC), were now housed in the same location. No longer constrained by the use of facilities belonging to other entities, new games were started. Beginning and Intermediate lessons were begun. Programs for growth and player retention were implemented. There was now a telephone book entry under “Bridge,” and Unit events (other than Sectionals) were able to be held in the same location as the regular games. A classroom allowed for lessons and games to be held simultaneously.
The growth of the games pushed the limit of the space allotment, so three years later twelve more blocks of shares were sold, and with these funds the BCA was able to move to its current location on Middle Fiskville Road. All Unit games as well as most Sectionals were now able to be accommodated at the BCA. At this time, the Unit membership had soared to almost 900, a 50% increase over the 2005 level. With the new Center came more growth and promotion of the game. More limited games were started and flourished under the supervision of Laura Delfeld, one of the new owners. Largely as a result of the BCA’s efforts, Unit membership reached almost 1000, and the Unit was awarded recognition as one of the fastest growing in District 16.
Although no longer running the only non-SAC games in Austin, the BCA continues to be a major source for new players through its educational programs and comprehensive set of limited games. It actively supports a local charity, Posada Esperanza, and occasionally runs charity games for other organizations as well (e.g. Haiti relief, Alzheimer’s). It provides a large, comfortable playing area with up to date bridge facilities, including automated scoring machines and pre-dealt hands with hand records at every game. All games are now part of “The Common Game” so players can compare to a much larger field. There are snacks at every game and some games offer a way to win/get a free play (Monday Night Madness, Tuesday Open Bridge Bingo, and monthly Birthday Bash). Our goal continues to be to provide the best possible environment for promoting bridge in Austin.