A worthwhile investment in a tent at The Refuge G&CC has solidified the club’s identity beyond golf as a proper venue for any event.
When your club is set on a picturesque, lakefront piece of property, adjacent to a national wildlife refuge, it seems a downright shame to not take full advantage of all that natural surrounding has to offer. Such was the thinking of Jerry Aldridge, owner of The Refuge Golf & Country Club in Lake Havasu City, Ariz., who decided to add to the club’s existing facilities by increasing its outdoor dining and entertainment space.
“The club was built to support a golf-only model in an amazing, tranquil setting,” Aldridge says. “[The decision to expand] was driven by the common knowledge that most successful country clubs generate significant revenue from weddings and events.”
In 2011, the club unveiled its Event Pavilion, a 7,000-sq. ft. tent with a two-foot-high stage in front. “We found that very few competing gathering spaces in our town had a stage,” Aldridge notes. “This aspect increased our business.”
The addition of a fire-suppression water sprinkler system and alarm system brought the tent to code as a Class B commercial building. Twelve-foot high windows look out to the club’s driving range and Lake Havasu, while decorative taffeta fabric—draped on cable over the span of the interior—helps to soften the fire-resistant heavy vinyl walls.
To make the tent event-ready, parquet flooring, two portable bars with chandelier lighting, sound and lighting equipment, tables and chairs were added to the layout. Ample seating can accommodate up to 250 guests at tables of ten in a flexible format. “We purchased tables and upscale folding chairs that can be easily moved about the property to accommodate numerous functions,” explains Aldridge.
Weather concerns are alleviated by the tent’s heating system, and in warmer weather, air conditioning is used as needed. “The tent requires more cooling during the hot summer months than an insulated building would, but we only cool it during the actual event,” Aldridge says. While wind can sometimes pose a sound-quality challenge, continuous background music helps to block out the noise.
Although the price tag of The Refuge’s event pavilion set the club back $300,000, the benefits have outweighed the cost. “The tent is approximately half the money to achieve the same capability as a brick-and-mortar building,” notes Aldridge. “Our goal was to generate additional income for the club quickly and efficiently, and our tent does that.”
To date, the tent’s usage has been expanded to accommodate affairs of all types and sizes: charity events, weddings, wine dinners, corporate parties, theatrical performances, and golf tournament parties, to name a few. “We now plan large member events where all can convene in a clean, comfortable space,” Aldridge says. “It adds substantially to the opportunity for camaraderie among members and guests.”
An addition that continues to prove its value in a competitive market, The Refuge’s tent has become something that the club and its members appreciate on a daily basis. “The survival of our business in a contracting golf market requires that we search for new opportunities at every turn,” Aldridge says. “I walk into our Event Pavilion, look out the huge windows at the lake, green driving range, and blue sky, see people dancing to a country band and enjoying a chili cook-off that five years ago didn’t exist at all, and I am proud.”