Bill and Ruth Keller posing in front of their brainchild, the newly built Orlando Metropolitan Bridge Center
The Original Idea
Around 1985, a group of bridge players began talking about how nice it would be to have a central location where the five or six clubs in the metropolitan area could host games under the same roof, becoming home to a real community of bridge players. A committee was formed, a piece of property was selected, building plans were drawn up, and an appointment was made with city officials.
Everything was approved, except the money. Bonds were sold to bridge players to cover the $400,000 project. The city offered the property for $10 a year for 35 years, along with a monthly utility bill rebate. There was one major stipulation — if during the 35 years, the building ceased being used as a bridge center, it would then belong to the City of Orlando.
Following negotiations with the city, a not for profit corporation was established “to provide accommodations and facilities for activities related to the game of bridge.” The Orlando Metropolitan Bridge Center Inc. is that entity. It is governed by a seven member board of directors, with four people elected by the bondholders and three game owners. As stated in its bylaws, this board is responsible for administrating the affairs of the corporation.
The Grand Opening
The building officially opened on May 10, 1989. That evening, six tables of eager players showed up. Soon four clubs were operating ten games per week. Over the years, the number of people learning, playing, and making friends at OMBC has steadily increased. Today, seven clubs operate operate 15 games per week, with more on the horizon.
A building of the size of the OMBC takes a lot of money to maintain — it’s like keeping up two homes. The roof has been replaced, all three air conditioning units have been replaced twice, the carpeting has been replaced, the building has been painted inside and out at least four times, and the parking lot has been maintained. The players enjoy bidding boxes, bridge pads, TV monitors, computer scoring, program-dealt hands with hand records, and coffee, tea, and snacks at each session.
Keeping It Going
OMBC hosts three sectionals each year, with the revenues staying at OMBC. Rent from the valet parking company for the business next door helps defray some of the expenses. Each club owner pays rent to OMBC for each player in each game. The bonds are being paid off on a regular basis, and we have almost ten more years on our lease with the City of Orlando. Ever since the beginning, The Orlando Metropolitan Bridge Center has been successful due to the hard work and contributions of many people: the club owners, the bondholders, the board of directors, and of course the players who volunteer their time and talent and are the reason for the existence of OMBC.