British Columbia

Park Royal Mall chess back on after mall offers new space

West Vancouver chess players, used to playing in the mall's food court, were asked to leave. But they proved they wouldn't be pawns in the shopping centre's game.

Public backlash ensued after mall told players to stop playing game in food court

Ben, 85, drives from Squamish each day to meet up with the other chess players. While the players will no longer meet in the food court (pictured), Park Royal says a new space has been worked out for them. (Rafferty Baker/CBC)

A dispute between Park Royal Mall and a group of chess players who have long played the game there has reached endgame.

For the past five decades, a group of people who love chess have met in the West Vancouver mall to play. But earlier this month it looked like it was game over when management told them to stop meeting.

Over the weekend, the mall and the chess players made a deal to move the chess players to a nearby area close to the food court.

"I think this is a win-win for both sides: we get to play chess, which is what we love to do, and the mall gets to show they care about the local community," chess player John Fodoor told On The Coast guest host Gloria Macarenko.

Park Royal's vice president of community partnerships and development, Rick Amantea, says the brouhaha was about "trying to manage both our business and the needs of the chess players," and was never about kicking them out of the mall.

Park Royal Shopping Centre got a lot of public backlash over the decision to give the chess players the boot. (Rafferty Baker/CBC)
"I think we both dug in our heels a little bit, and that's how we got to that point," he said. "Since then we've had some great discussions with representatives from the chess-playing community and we've arrived at a very good place."

News of the chess players being asked not to come to the food court anymore drew strong community reaction. Even West Vancouver Mayor Mike Smith expressed confusion about the situation.

Amantea said the mall heard those community concerns.

"I think if there were any errors on anybody's part, it's that we didn't give deep enough consideration to alternatives within the shopping centre for the chess players," he said. "We're there now, and we're looking forward to the future."

And thus concludes what may be the biggest chess drama since the 1984 Tim Rice musical.

With files from CBC Radio One's On The Coast

To hear the full story, click the audio labelled: Checkmate! Park Royal Mall chess back on in new space