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Private clubs are increasingly recognizing the need to become more family-centric and multi-generational. In Part I of this three-part series, we delved into the benefits of exploring free-form, nature-oriented activities that are not only fun, but also educational for our youngest club members.
In Part II, we explored the importance of hiring the right staff to develop and run programs that are both engaging and entertaining for children. Not only does this positively impact a child’s private club experience, but also gives parents peace of mind while encouraging them to spend more time at the club. In Part III, we will uncover ways to make the most out of your facilities – and invest when appropriate – in order to cater to children in their private club experience and help create lasting memories.
Adapting Facilities You Already Have
Many clubs have taken great strides in recent years to become more family-friendly, while others still have some work to do to move away from the “family-tolerant” atmosphere of the past. Regardless of where your club is on the spectrum, club leaders should take comfort in knowing that though embracing families and children takes resources, it doesn’t have to come at a substantial cost. So how do we cater to this under-served segment without breaking the bank? We talked to some clubs who do a great job of adapting facilities they already have to create unique experiences for young members and families.
Take The Governors Club in Chapel Hill, NC, for example, which has turned “Movie Night” into a new and exciting experience by offering the movie out by the pool! The Club projects a film onto a poolside screen while families watch from the pool deck or atop a pool float as they enjoy the latest Disney flick or family classics. It’s easy to get creative with your movie nights. Pick a theme and incorporate it into the food, lighting or simple decorations. Or setup a ‘drive-in’ movie and allow families to drive golf carts out onto the driving range! These types of outdoor movie nights are fun and unique ways to get everyone in the family involved, while complementing club experiences they already enjoy.
Many clubs also involve children by catering tennis or golf clinics to youth, grooming them for future success on the tennis courts or golf course. Since your club has likely made significant investments in these facilities already, why not create programs geared toward children? “The key to success in the private club industry is anything with ‘junior’ in front of it,” says Chambers President and CEO, Rick Snellinger. “They are the future of the Club and these kinds of programs are a great way to foster a relationship with young members early on.”
Clubs like Cape Fear Country Club in Wilmington, NC have even developed targeted fitness programs for children. These programs range from training programs for teenagers looking to join a high school or college team, as well as ‘tiny tots’ classes for toddlers and young children. Modifying athletic programming to cater to children of all ages reaps the benefits of creating the next generation of members who will grow up to use those facilities in their adulthood.
By using facilities the club already has, you’ve found a low-cost way to involve our youth in programming that gives them opportunities to socialize, exercise and possibly find a passion in a new sport!
Devoting Small Amounts of Dollars
If you’re club has already implemented some of these programs with your existing facilities, that’s great! So now you’re looking to take the next step, but don’t have too many extra dollars in your budget to build substantial facilities? No problem!
We spoke with an expert on youth programming: Andrea Curthoys. During her 20+ years at The Beach Club in Los Angeles, Curthoys and her staff were able to provide their youngest members with plenty of enjoyment using their club’s play structure. “The Beach Club has had a play structure for over 50 years, which is unheard of for clubs,” explained Curthoys. “It appeals to children and parents because they provide kids with endless hours of amusement in a controlled yet vibrant atmosphere. People don’t need a lot of entertainment to have a good time.”
Though they do cost money, these kinds of facilities are an upfront investment that are relatively inexpensive when compared to the substantial return on investment – or as we like to say, ‘return on experience’. Any activities that allow for self-entertainment are incredibly valuable to private clubs and parents by providing children with an organized environment, while allowing them to have a distinct experience on their own terms. Plus, they can be enjoyed over and over again, but the club only has to pay for it once—its’ a win, win!
The pool experience can also easily be modified to capitalize on the excitement that already exists at the pool without breaking the bank. Most club pools are packed during the hot summer months. In fact, recent industry studies show that pools are now the #2 amenity that prospective members search for when looking to join a club. However, industry trends show a desire for more resort-style pool facilities than clubs typically created decades ago when building their initial pool facilities.
One way to incorporate this trend without redoing the entire pool complex is to implement a splash pad. These often replace the old “baby pools” (who knows what happens in those anyway!) and provide interactive water features where their youngest members can explore and play with other kids. At minimal cost, splash pads are a great way to transform the pool atmosphere into a greater sensory experience for children.
Investing in Target Facilities
If your Club is planning to invest significant dollars into its facilities, youth amenities should certainly be a top consideration. Creating a designated area in the club for children to have their own space provides them with an opportunity to have fun and develop social skills, while at the same time offering their parents a reprieve – and peace of mind.
As discussed in our last issue of Club Road, Cape Fear Country Club recently accomplished this with the development of their Family Activity Center. As Part Two of an overall master plan, this building was created to house the club’s pool, tennis and fitness offerings. Given the natural synergy between these amenities, as well as the desire to fully embrace young families in their multi-generational membership, creating designated space for youth was a no brainer! From child care areas for toddlers to youth activity areas and game rooms for teens and tweens, these facilities cater to various age groups so that everyone in the family unit feels like they have their own place to call ‘home’ at the club.
The Briar Club located in Houston, TX is another great example of a Club that has made a significant commitment to children and families by adding a new family-oriented building called ‘The Kids Club’. Similar to Cape Fear’s amenities, this new building offers a child care service, nursery area, and Daily Activity Schedules to promote growth and learning. Inside The Kids Club is a lofty area called ‘The Hideout’, a space where older children can enjoy videogames, air hockey, foosball and their very own movie lounge. Of course, these buildings aren’t cheap – but the enjoyment and entertainment value are sure to drive member usage and are well worth the investment if you can fund them!
Remember – It’s About Having Fun!
Children need simplicity in their lives. With today’s hectic and structured school, homework and sport schedules, it’s important to remember they sometimes just need a break to relax and have fun. And as club leaders, it is important to provide them with this opportunity. Organizing and coordinating child-friendly programs and activities takes patience and organization, but by striking a balance between educational, social and entertainment values, private clubs can enable kids to have a good time, while learning how to share a space and make new friends.
With some simple brainstorming and added creativity, club leaders can easily provide children with an environment where they can create memorable experiences on their own terms and increase the value of membership for the whole family!
Click here to re-visit Part One on free form activities and Part Two about the importance of staffing. How has your club adapted its facilities to create a youth-oriented environment? Comment below and let us know!