Playing Outside

By | November 9th, 2017

Applewood Country Club, Downingtown, Pa.

Properties are moving activity out of the clubhouse by creating innovative outdoor recreational amenities.

Having fun outdoors isn’t strictly child’s play. But as the average age of club and resort members continues to skew younger each season, properties must maintain amenities that appeal to a more youthful sensibility that’s intent on staying in shape while having fun.

Facilities looking to engage active members must focus on innovative ways to implement outdoor programming that makes the best use of their surroundings and is cost-efficient. From individual recreation extras to complete sports-center overhauls, these clubs demonstrate how to maximize outdoor entertainment for members and their guests.

• A diverse range of outdoor amenities can help bridge the gap between younger and older members, including multi-generational families.
• Building upon existing, adjacent outdoor-recreation facilities fosters an easy transition from one activity to the next.
• Choosing materials that can withstand the elements ensures longevity and low maintenance.

Creating “Total Synergy”
Bentwood Country Club in San Angelo, Texas, expanded its tennis facility to encompass other sporting activities in a move that benefitted current members while keeping an eye on the future. Located in a residential neighborhood with an additional 500 homes expected to be built in the coming years, the area is ripe for change.

“We wanted to create a total synergy around our club space,” explains Director of Tennis Courtney Nagel. “Renovating the tennis area would not only enhance our current members’ experience and add value, but also attract new homeowners in our development.”

While the club’s tennis building was outdated and in need of renovation, management saw an opportunity to add a fitness center and revitalize the outdoor playing area. “Bentwood has an active tennis membership, so we were nervous about turning our stadium tennis court into a recreational multi-sport field,” Nagel says. “But we felt this was in the best interest of our members.”

Allocating $150,000 of the project’s budget, the club’s tennis space was restructured into six courts and four resurfaced courts, along with a multipurpose field for volleyball, half-court basketball, soccer, and three fitness lanes. The entire project was completed in October 2016, at a cost of just over $2 million.
Housing the multi-sport field in the same space that originally contained the club’s stadium tennis court, management focused on which activities would be taking place on the turf field. “We relied on our construction partners heavily to make recommendations on the proper surfaces to use,” explains Drew White of Fitness Finishes, the firm that handled the project. “We had to take into consideration proper drainage, and that the field would be exposed to different surfaces.”

Bentwood Country Club, San Angelo, Texas

The team decided on a specially designed turf with built-in sport backing noted for its added cushion. “It did not have a rubber/sand infill that would have been a maintenance headache,” White notes.

With the conversion of the stadium tennis court into a dynamic recreational zone, the well-manicured turf field beckons visitors with its red-and-black painted lanes designed for track-and-field activities. “Kids are immediately drawn to the space, and adults want to know what the markings are on the track lanes,” says Nagel.

Also of note is a small turf field for Bentwood’s younger members, located just off the club’s Courtside Bar patio. Dubbed the Rainbow Playspace, this kids’ zone is frequently used when older siblings or parents are playing tennis, and is cited as one of the project’s best investments.

Since the club unveiled its new fitness center and multi-sport fields last fall, these additions have established Bentwood as a true full-service operation. “Now that we can offer a fitness center with a multi-sport field and a playscape within 20 feet, we have seen an increase in membership, as well as having members stay on who might otherwise drop [their memberships] after the pool season,” says Nagel.

Not only are the turf fields used by all ages, outdoor programming has seen a boost as well, enabling Bentwood to host sports summer camps, family game nights and other family events. “This space has helped to create the sense of community we had hoped for,” Nagel says.

Hilton Tucson El Conquistador Golf & Tennis Resort, Oro Valley, Ariz.

Back in the Saddle Again

At the Hilton Tucson El Conquistador Golf & Tennis Resort in Oro Valley, Ariz., a branding “re-boot” has helped to revitalize an existing outdoor amenity. Last November, the facility re-opened its 18-horse stable in conjunction with Pot-A-Gold Adventures, an Arizona-based event-planning service that specializes in horse stable operations. The newly dubbed El Conquistador Western Adventures is now part of the resort’s “Uniquely Southwest” brand that signifies a local cultural experience for its guests.

As part of the program, visitors can take trail rides or riding lessons, exploring the Sonoran Desert on the property’s 80 acres, and arrange for either a “cowboy breakfast” beforehand or a group cookout to cap off the activity. The services are promoted online, in print media and via internal concierge by Hilton, while Pot-A-Gold handles all operational duties.

“Having trail rides available on site has created more convenience for guests and corporate groups that are looking for adventure without having to worry about the additional time and cost associated with transportation,” says Tracy Nyemaster, the resort’s Director of Activities & Adventure. “It is great for team-building activities and our events and salespeople promote them to meeting planners, many of whom have already taken advantage of this unique offering.”

Because this amenity is also open to the public for a separate fee, the Hilton Tucson El Conquistador is also able to market the service to outside guests, helping to broaden its future customer base. “Our guests are thrilled with having the stables on property,” Nyemaster notes. “Many have been coming to the resort for years and are very happy to see the stables up and running again.”

Sports by the Seaside
At the Acqualina Resort & Spa in Sunny Isles Beach, Fla., the location alone suggests al fresco entertainment by the water and a backdrop that integrates family time with fun time. Beginning in the fall of 2015, the facility began rolling out entertainment amenities, from beachfront basketball and soccer to a king-sized chess board.

“Whenever we had another great idea of what else [could] further enhance the guest and resident experience, we immediately put it into action,” says General Manager Christof Pignet. “All [amenities have] been carefully chosen and crafted to be in harmony and balance with the Mediterranean allure of Acqualina that guests, residents and beach club members of all ages enjoy.”

Because Acqualina prides itself on catering to multigenerational families, it was important to provide amenities for parents, children and grandparents alike. Easily accessible locations for sports-focused activities, along with ample room to play on the property’s four-and-a-half beachfront acres, created an ideal setting. “It was very important that all added [amenities] would complement the existing environment and not interfere with the customer experience,” says Pignet.

To ensure the longevity of these beachfront amenities, management selected play equipment that was specially designed to withstand exposure to Florida sun and saltwater, and staff was trained on how to properly care for and treat these items. While the setup and installation of the outdoor facilities did not pose any challenges for Acqualina, maintaining the amenities’ functionality remains an important part of the resort staff’s daily agenda.

Perhaps one of the more notable additions to Acqualina’s outdoor recreation programming is its Strider Adventure Zone. Unveiled during the first quarter of this year, this dedicated space helps the resort’s youngest patrons (ages 18 months to five years) boost their balance and coordination skills while riding no-pedal Strider Balance Bikes. A specially marked path, lined with race cones and flags, runs alongside the white sand beach and is manned by pool and beach attendants.

“By incorporating the use of Strider products and the Strider Adventure Zone, we are creating a unique, engaging and healthy activity for our little guests,” says Deborah Yager Fleming, the resort’s CEO.

Acqualina Resort & Spa, Sunny Isles Beach, Fla.

And through the integration of all of its new outdoor amenities, Acqualina continues to prove its worth to its clientele. “Acqualina is truly a resort that appeals to parents who are accustomed to luxurious properties where they can escape daily life and still enjoy moments with their children,” says Pignet.

Home on the Range
At Reynolds Lake Oconee in Greensboro, Ga., members will soon become sharpshooters, thanks to brand-new sporting grounds debuting this fall. Comprised of a 20-stand sporting clays course, a five-stand shooting range, instructional and games area, air-rifle facility and archery course, this comprehensive complex is poised to cultivate true marksmanship.

“An enthusiastic group of members interested in shooting sports had been using an off-site location, so the development of our own sporting grounds was a natural addition to the existing recreational activities offered at Reynolds Lake Oconee,” says COO Tim Hong.

The surrounding 100 acres of terrain, boasting natural forests, ravines, river beds and rolling hills, serves as the ideal backdrop for the new campus.

The site is anchored by the existing Sandy Creek Barn, a restored wood-beam structure that serves as the inspiration for the sporting course. A favorite gathering spot for concerts, weddings and member events, the barn is also available for rental to guests of The Ritz-Carlton Reynolds, Lake Oconee. In addition, the sporting grounds will be accessible to guests of the Reynolds Lake Oconee cottages and The Ritz-Carlton, which will promote the amenities to groups and individual guests. Golf and shooting packages are expected to be introduced later this fall.

While a special member open house and reception was scheduled for November, 600 attendees were treated to a sneak preview during a kickoff concert in September.

Reynolds Lake Oconee, Greensboro, Ga.

“The member response to this new amenity has been enthusiastic, with many anxious to bring family members and friends to spend the day and show their skills at the Sandy Creek Sporting Grounds,” says Hong.

Keeping Family Front and Center
At Applecross Country Club in Downingtown, Pa., the recent conversion of a grass courtyard into a kids’ sport court has maximized entertainment options for the club’s youngest members. Situated between the fitness center/indoor pool and outdoor pool areas, the new facility has helped to create a consistent schedule for active members.

“We wanted to give our kids a place to play and hang out when they are not swimming,” says General Manager Gregg Russell. “We also wanted to give better access to both pools during the summer.”

The eight-week-long project, which was finished this past May, created a space for half-court basketball (with an adjustable rim), along with areas for tether ball, four-square, a mini-lacrosse field, and a shuffleboard court. Three doors lead from this area to the indoor pool, to offer a seamless transition between water- and land-based sports.

One of the biggest decisions when planning the project involved finding the best surface for accommodating all of the new, and old, activities. “We wanted the kids to freely be able to go from pool to pool, as well as play multiple activities on one surface,” notes Russell. Management ultimately decided on sport-court flooring for its durability and numerous color choices.

Applewood Country Club, Downingtown, Pa.

Another big lesson learned involved choosing the correct type of landscaping mulch for the surrounding area, Russell adds.

Because the bulk of the work for the project was performed during the off-season, the club was able to surprise its members with the new attractions upon their return this past spring. On Memorial Day weekend, the club held a slam-dunk contest during which the specially designed basketball hoop was lowered to six feet—much to the delight of its young hoop stars.

Russell describes the sporting center as “fitting like a glove. We were very happy that we achieved one of our planning goals of making the project feel like it was always meant to be there,” he says.

As the first full season for Applecross’ sporting center comes to an end, members couldn’t be more pleased, Russell adds; feedback has been positive, and he’s seen a jump in overall activities. “Members have been very grateful that we are always thinking about the entire family when we add new amenities to our club,” he says.

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