20 Jul

More Than Bricks & Mortar

Questions to Consider During the Planning Phase

Today’s plans places a focus on the full member experience. The private club Master Plan of yore (and by that, we mean not all that long ago, frankly) was more often than not a bricks & mortar look at the future of the club—what goes where, how big it’ll be and how much it will cost.

Oh, but times have changed. “The industry is finally seeing the wisdom of a Master Plan that tests every decision against a much more meaningful set of criteria,” says Chambers President & CEO and Master Planning expert Rick Snellinger. Every Master Plan consideration should answer three fundamental questions, he says.

1. Will it attract and retain members?
  Is it something members are looking for? Without it, would some members likely leave?

Consider as an example, an enhanced or new fitness center offered within the cost of membership—that’s an increase in member value and relevancy.  Year-round junior golf academies are also becoming huge recruiting tools. Resort-style pools are also attracting and keeping families in large numbers. Each of these options and more should be considered in the Master Planning research process.

2. Will it improve the member/guest experience?  Members might not leave without a facilities renovation, but could it enhance their experience?  When Chambers tackled 100-year-old Charlotte Country Club’s Master Plan and subsequent renovation, they began with a review of virtually every aspect of the member experience. As example, Chambers discovered that most members entered and left the club through a secondary entrance close to the parking lot.  Unattractive and cramped, it was a very ungracious entry to a very gracious and beautiful club. Chambers turned the entrance into a much more pleasant arrival experience, ultimately enhancing member satisfaction.

Or consider something as simple as club-offered poolside towels, a simple and lovely touch that seldom goes unnoticed.  Every touch point is ripe for consideration in the Master Planning process.

3. Can we quantify the return on investment?
“Prime example,” says Snellinger, “banquet spaces.” He often hears club clients pine for larger banquet spaces, claiming its profitability well worth the investment. “But very often we find that clubs’ calculations don’t include ‘occupancy costs’ for banquet space — that is, heating/cooling, power, real estate taxes and other overhead expenses.  With a space that’s likely to sit empty many days during the year, those costs against banquet revenues add up. “The club might not be making as much as it thinks” on its banquet operations,” Snellinger offers. Chambers will often consider flexible spaces in its planning process or rebalancing spaces to enhance value in experience and cost efficiencies.

Sometimes bricks & mortar solutions are part of the mix, “but that doesn’t even have to mean additional square footage,” says Snellinger, who has spearheaded the Master Planning process for dozens of clubs, coast to coast. “Master Planning decisions should address problems and opportunities in the member experience,” he says. “Solutions will come in different packages, big and small, but each should answer clearly these questions.”

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