Creating a one-stop shop for business and pleasure, more clubs are entering the modern age with dedicated spaces for members’ use of their electronic devices.
There’s no denying it: Smartphones and other ways to stay connected 24/7 aren’t going away anytime soon. While this “new normal” may be easy to accept in some settings, private-club culture often dictates that the use of electronics is socially undesirable.
But rather than ignore consumers’ increasing reliance on technology for both social and business purposes, some facilities are finding ways to adapt to the modern-day environment by switching from no-tech to low-key tech.
|SUMMING IT UP
• Integrating technology in a business-only environment sets a clear tone about where use of electronics is permitted.
From Locker Room to Lodge
As part of a nearly two-year-long, $40 million revitalization project, The Golf Club of Georgia in Alpharetta, Ga., recently repurposed an underutilized men’s locker room into a meeting and event space. Redubbed The Lodge, the space boasts soaring ceilings, views of the golf course off a private balcony, and a central location in the north wing of the clubhouse.
Purposely designed with two private entrances, The Lodge affords members a quiet place to conduct their business affairs. “This allows the club to host meetings and events without disrupting our members or sacrificing their privacy,” says General Manager Jacqueline Welch. A third entrance provides easy access to the main clubhouse, allowing the club to provide food-and-beverage service to business professionals.
To satisfy members’ technical needs, The Lodge is equipped with Wi-Fi access, an A/V system, five 65-inch televisions, a drop-down projection screen, and a presentation podium with integrated audio or the option of a wireless microphone. Integrating the projector and drop-down screen did pose some logistical concerns for the designers.
“We were able to design a box around the drop-down screen, which was built into the molding and designed to appear as the bottom of a beam,” explains Welch. The projector warranted a built-in pocket cubby in unused attic space. “Our A/V company had to get a little creative with the projector mount and the ventilation, but they were able to accomplish this to meet the equipment and aesthetic needs,” she adds.
While The Lodge is designed to accommodate up to 250 patrons, a flexible nearby breakout room, named The Boardroom, is meant to host smaller meeting groups. “It’s the perfect space for creative thinking, a combined work-to-golf meeting, or a quiet enclave for brainstorming,” says Welch.
Now, with both The Lodge and The Boardroom, members’ business needs are well-satisfied at The Golf Club of Georgia, Welch believes, because the facility can successfully manage its private-club membership while providing non-members with access to other parts of the clubhouse for events. To stay on the forefront of technological advances as they arise, she credits the club’s ownership for keeping the facility up to date and ensuring that its web-based systems receive regular software updates.
|Establishing Ground Rules
Clubs that set aside space specifically for business purposes must set up rules for member use. At The Metropolitan Club of the City of Washington (D.C.), the Correspondence Lounge is available on a first-come, first-served basis; there is no opportunity to book the room in advance.
“The club determined that this policy would avoid detracting from other private-party bookings,” explains Assistant General Manager Benjamin Hales. Use of the large conference room is limited to a maximum of 30 minutes, and the front desk controls access by issuing a key.
At The Golf Club of Georgia, meeting rooms are available for use at any time. While these spaces can be reserved at no cost, they do require a food-and-beverage minimum. For larger corporate events, the club’s event manager works with members to create a customized event.
Costs for use of business-related services are another aspect to consider when implementing meeting-room rules. At The Center Club in Baltimore, Md., there is no fee to use the business center’s services, while at The Metropolitan Club, members are charged for use of the conference phones, with the fees applied to their membership accounts.
Lunch and Log In
For members of The Center Club in Baltimore, Md., combining work and pleasure has become easier to do inside a revamped business center that reopened last May.
“As part of an initiative where the club renamed a number of rooms after prominent Baltimoreans, we upgraded what were previously two separate rooms into the Willard Hackerman Business Center,” says General Manager Kevin Bonner. (Hackerman was a philanthropist and longtime president and CEO of Whiting-Turner Contracting Co.)
The two rooms were converted into one larger room after the middle wall was torn down. “We repurposed the woodwork from the removed wall for use in the workstations and library shelves,” says Bonner. The result is a more contemporary and technology-equipped area, complete with work spaces, comfortable seating and a functioning fireplace for a cozy atmosphere.
While The Center Club is outfitted with Wi-Fi access throughout, the business center provides a dedicated space for utilizing technology, free of charge, in a professional setting. A community table that seats four to six people features built-in charging stations, while two plug-in workstations let individuals connect independently. Those who do not have a laptop with them can use the center’s Apple computer, or pick up an iPad from the receptionist.
Because the center is specifically designed for those looking to get their work done in a quiet environment, phone calls are not permitted. Food is also not allowed, but members may partake of the center’s hydration area for coffee, tea or water. For larger corporate meetings, the club’s additional eight meeting spaces can utilize the catering department for on-site meals.
Bonner has been pleased to see how the upgraded business center now provides another reason for members to visit the club or extend their stays. “We frequently see members who have lunch reservations come early or stay afterwards to do some work,” he notes. “Members who have a home office appreciate the opportunity to work in a different setting.”
To stay on top of high-tech trends at the club, plans for installing beacon technology to alert staff to a member’s arrival are underway, along with integration of technology that helps to identify members’ dietary needs.
Maintaining Club Tradition
Trying to maintain culture and tradition in the modern-day era has often proved difficult for some clubs, especially for facilities where the use of electronics has been strictly prohibited. At The Metropolitan Club of the City of Washington (D.C.), this became a hot-button issue that had to be addressed.
“The Board finally realized [that] to maintain the decorum desired here at the club and the strong desire not to allow members and guests to use their phones, laptops or tablets, we needed to offer a sanctuary in the club that would embrace technology and the members’ desire to stay connected,” says General Manager/COO Michael Redmond.
“Rather than just instructing users to stop, it was determined that there was a need to offer them an alternative location,” adds Benjamin Hales, Assistant General Manager.
So in 2013, management decided to invest $150,000 to repurpose an unused business center into what has been re-named the Correspondence Lounge. Comprised of two small conference rooms for a maximum of two people, a large conference room to seat four, and a soft seating area, the lounge is equipped with technological features throughout. Wi-Fi access, wireless printers and eight carrels (four with computers and four without) provide ample space and utilities for work, while a lockable phone charging station can handle ten devices.
“The design is more modern and contemporary than the rest of the club, reflecting the lounge’s unique purpose,” notes Hales. “Special attention was paid to lighting levels, color tones and ambient noise levels.”
To ensure that the lounge’s look and feel provide a business-friendly tone, Hales and his team worked tirelessly with IT consultants, interior designers and architects on the layout. Because of its central location—adjacent to the front desk in the highest traffic area of the club—the lounge has become one of the busiest places in the clubhouse, particularly during breakfast and lunch.
The benefits of this dedicated space still protect the traditional, social environment of the rest of the club, Hales points out. While the lounge has value for members who use the space, it eliminates any potential headaches involved with reprimanding rule-breakers.
“It gives members and staff an alternative to suggest to anyone seen using an electronic device in violation of club rules,” Hales explains.
Recognizing the approval of members and guests alike, Redmond is quick to praise Hales’ efforts in helping the club adapt to changing times, without having to sacrifice long-establish decorum.
“The project has been a game changer for us, and Benjamin [has] played an integral part in its development and daily success,” Redmond says.