25 Oct

All Things Considerd

From a Shaking Beginning to a Dream Outcome

Splash pad at Illahe Hills Country Club

Take decades of deferred maintenance, a 50-year-old swimming pool, a changing membership, and a restrictive set of bylaws — throw on a crippling recession and queasy banks — and you’ve got enough to make any club board member’s head spin.

The endeavor began like many others:  Illahe Hills Country Club in Salem, Oregon was faced with years of neglected maintenance and a club that no longer met the needs of its members — much less was ready for a next generation.

They did all the right things in preparation:  Undertook a strategic planning effort.  Successfully lobbied and gained member support for changes to the club’s bylaws that freed up project funding options.  Engaged members in a series of focus groups to learn more about their needs and wants, and validated their findings.  And they admitted when they needed help.

“(After these initial stages) we knew what we needed and what our members wanted,” said Gerry Thompson, who, as past chairwoman of the Illahe Hills board of directors, was instrumental in driving the planning and execution process. “When we took it to the house committee and asked for a plan, we all quickly realized we were in a bit over our heads.”  Planning, prioritizing, budgeting…it was time to bring in the professionals.

Chambers joined the effort and began the master planning process with Illahe, working to accommodate demands for an improved pub area, a much improved pool and bathhouse, and a laundry list of other items — and also to assess their maintenance issues (HVAC, roofing, carpeting and more).

When the original budget came in higher than membership was comfortable with, Chambers then worked with Illahe to reconsider and recraft. Together, they arrived at a palatable solution. Hurdle #1 overcome.

Hurdle #2:  The bank that originally promised financing help for the project by now had stopped providing loans to membership-based organizations.  Illahe considered postponing the project.  “Chambers had a suggestion for that, too,” recalled Thompson, “They gave us the courage to consider other options.”

“The timing was ideal for the building project,” said Chambers President & CEO Rick Snellinger, who led the master planning effort for the Illahe project. “Interest rates were low and construction costs were down,” he said.  Within months, Illahe was able to put together a private group of investors.

But in the process, the project budget was scaled back even further.  Hurdle #3.

Chambers went back to work, rethinking and reconfiguring and came up with a plan that enabled Illahe to accomplish virtually everything on its list.  “We were determined to make this happen for them,” said Chris Smith, Chambers lead architect on the project.  “Certainly, it took some additional creativity on our part — and some flexibility on theirs.”

“Now we have a gorgeous new swimming pool complex,” said Thompson.  “And we completed all our deferred maintenance. When we worried we wouldn’t be able to do the pub, Chambers assured us there was a solution.”  There was also money in the budget to rebalance dining rooms, revamp the tennis area and complete some needed golf course maintenance. Where additions or wholesale renovations weren’t in the budget, Chambers worked with the club to dress up some areas with new flooring, carpeting, painting and rearrangements.

The project was ultimately a test of creativity and willingness to consider alternatives.  Perhaps one of the biggest examples:  After struggling for years and through it’s own planning processes with some logistical challenges in their cart staging and service delivery areas, together with some related clubhouse issues, “Chris (Doyle) walked into one of our first meetings and said, ‘We need to move the swimming pool’,” said Thompson.  “That was something we’d never have considered on our own,” she said.  “But it completely opened up the site.”

Illahe Hills has what it now considers to be its “dream clubhouse.”

A new board president took ribbon cutting honors at the grand opening celebration this summer — small children at his side.  The younger members who were such a priority for many of the changes made to the club are now leading membership gains since the renovations have been completed. Says Thompson with an appreciative smile, “It’s their turn now.”

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