Volleyball has been spiked from the activity catalog and banned from the multipurpose room at the Northshore Senior Center. After more than three...

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Volleyball has been spiked from the activity catalog and banned from the multipurpose room at the Northshore Senior Center.

After more than three years, the popular program that once drew seniors from as far away as Marysville was recently forced to find a new location.

“We’re too rowdy and active for them,” said John Kenny of Bothell, a volleyball player and longtime participant who refuses to renew his membership. “I think they only want seniors who sit around and play cards.”

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According to center director Marty Dennis and board president Bob Mitchell, the problem is damage to light fixtures.

“Lights have been destroyed, and it costs $150 just to rent a lift to replace them,” Dennis said. “It is a multipurpose room, not a gym.”

Kenny, 80, and other players said they offered to pay for the three broken lights and post a bond to cover future damages. One player repaired a light fixture, Kenny said.

“The former director, Marianne [LoGerfo], welcomed us and encouraged us,” said Gail Ballard of Kirkland, volunteer coordinator for the group. “We were allowed to fix up the room for volleyball. We were told they wanted to bring in younger seniors to the center and that volleyball would help.”

When the volleyball program started in the spring of 2002, players met one afternoon a week. More seniors started participating, and at one point the group played Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays for two hours.

That changed about six months ago, after LoGerfo retired in December 2004, Ballard said.

The players had to leave the multipurpose room several times because it had been rented out, although no advance warning was given, she said. After three years of playing until 5:30 p.m. and closing up the building when finished, a security guard told Ballard that the players to leave the building by 4:30 p.m.

“Apparently there was a new policy, but like the supposed rentals, we weren’t informed about it,” she said.

Ballard said attempts to solve the problems with Dennis failed.

Another volleyball player, Bob Spiger of Kenmore, ran for the board in hopes of making peace and representing the players. He wasn’t elected.

“I think it is a philosophy issue,” Spiger, 65, said.

“Is the primary purpose of the room as a revenue source from rentals or for seniors to use? Right now, renting it takes precedence over our activities.”

In September, Mitchell sent Ballard a letter saying the board had “decided to prohibit the use of the main auditorium for playing volley ball [sic] effective immediately.” He cited “repeated damage to light fixtures and other parts of the room.”

Volleyball players — who range in age from 54 to 80-plus, say they asked for a hearing. They were told the board had already made its decision.

“We were all paid-up members of the center and certainly had the right to be heard on this issue before any decision was made,” Kenny said. When asked this week about the decision, Mitchell said he “stood by” the letter.

“We want to take care of the seniors in Bothell,” he said. “That’s where we want to put our time and money and not take care of damage caused by volleyball.”

The volleyball group may have no recourse.

“The center boards operate independently,” said Denise Klein, executive director of Senior Services of King County, which oversees eight senior centers including Northshore. “They make the decisions for each center.”

The experience has left many of the players with a bitter taste.

“I can understand volleyball gets a little wilder than pickle ball,” Ballard said. “To be totally honest, I don’t think this is about volleyball. We argued, we stood up to authority, we laughed loud and we played hard. We aren’t easy to control.”

Meanwhile, the group rents the Highland Center in Bellevue for twice-a-week play.

If anything, being booted out of the Northshore Senior Center has drawn the players closer together, Ballard said. Earlier this month, a half-dozen of the participants and some of their spouses went on a Caribbean cruise.

“We played a lot of volleyball,” she said.

Sherry Grindeland: 206-515-5633 or sgrindeland@seattletimes.com