Deep Dive

By | February 8th, 2018

Chattahoochee Country Club, Gainesville, Ga.

Properties are heeding members’ requests for more elaborate, top-notch pool facilities, with projects that range from cosmetic updates to full-fledged, resort-style renovations.

As one of the most ubiquitous components of club and resort life, pools are the bread and butter for many facilities. But once pools begin to degrade and no longer represent the lifestyle and image members have come to expect, clubs must determine what types of enhancements are necessary. Be it an aesthetic upgrade of a stand-alone facility, or a complete overhaul of a larger complex, many properties are making a splash with pool amenities that are truly plunge-worthy.

SUMMING IT UP

• Visit neighboring club and resort facilities to see what pool elements are trending and working well.
• Get members involved in the process early on, to boost overall satisfaction.
• Construction setbacks are inevitable; take them in stride by adjusting the completion date as needed and keeping an open dialogue with members.

Relaxing Revitalization
Maximizing an already-stellar setting was on the agenda at the Hilton Marco Island Beach Resort and Spa in Marco Island, Fla., which completed a pool renovation in November 2016. Thanks to plenty of usage over the years, the outdoor pool was due for a facelift.

“With the new design, we wanted to offer a relaxing and spacious atmosphere while offering optimal views of the beach and sunset in all settings,” explains Director of Sales and Marketing Andrew Neubauer. With an awe-inspiring beachfront location in place, the project could focus entirely on enhancing the pool experience itself for guests.

The main focus of the redesign plans hinged on greater accessibility. The 50’ x 30’ footprint has remained intact, and the pool boasts an 80,000-gallon volume to accommodate its consistent usage. Ample seating provides comfort for spectators, and a larger waterfall contributes to the spa-inspired vibe.

Hilton Marco Island Beach Resort and Spa, Marco Island, Fla.

A strategically placed hot tub on raised decking looks out over the beachfront; this feature, Neubauer notes, provides guests with “an outstanding view while experiencing exclusivity.” A pool hut for kids’ activities that can be enjoyed from a distance has also been added.

Guests can also relax on new outdoor furniture that features a contemporary design in muted earth tones and fabric textures, balanced by Brazilian walnut wood that, Neubauer says, “shouts natural luster.” An array of fire pits in the lounge area seeks to counteract the chill off the water during post-sunset hours.

Since the pool’s renovation, the resort has seen a notable increase in guests, and feedback has been extremely positive, Neubauer says.

“They are excited to explore and be a part of our newly renovated area,” he enthuses. In addition, the resort has experienced an uptick in special bookings, including weddings, fashion shows, dinners, and cocktail parties.

Going with the Flow: Assessing Saltwater Pools

As club and resort properties consider their next pool upgrade, they may be taking a closer look at the growing trend to saltwater pools, which use a saltwater generator to electronically convert salt into chlorine, resulting in lower chlorine levels.

To decide whether or not this market shift is in fact “worth its salt,” consider the positives and negatives for this type of upgrade:

Pros:
• Less maintenance
• Lower chlorine levels
• Potential for fewer member complaints and health concerns
• More environmentally friendly

Cons:
• Costly initial investment
• Greater need for professional troubleshooting
• Possible corrosivity to ladders and other pool fixtures

Source: Base4 Group, Inc.

Comprehensive Overhaul
At the Country Club of Landfall in Wilmington, N.C., the amenity that had become a staple of club life was in need of some updating. But rather than concentrate on the pool’s cosmetic concerns, management decided to examine a myriad of factors that were having an impact on its usefulness.

“Our club already offered a very good pool complex, but we felt the design and deck flow could be better organized and given a much more updated look,” says General Manager Jessi Reutter.

To better determine how to maximize the member experience, Reutter took a closer look at the pool’s usage, the neighboring bath house location and design, the pool deck layout, and member access to food-and-beverage services. After completing a design plan in September 2016, construction began the following February and was completed last December.

Because the pool is an integral part of the club’s member experience, its location was already a good fit. Instead, more attention was given to the pool’s design, which was enhanced with a rim flow to create a resort-style look, while providing more seating along the edge. The club also opted for large entry steps that don’t create as much unused space as a zero-entry design. Seven lap lanes were also added: six lanes were designed for competitive events, complete with removable starter blocks, and one shallower lane was created for new swimmers and swim classes.

Country Club of Landfall, Wilmington, N.C.

“The [shallow lane’s] 4’ 2” depth allows an instructor or parent to stand with a new swimmer for the entire length of the pool,” notes Reutter. All of these improvements add up to a 5,380-sq. ft. pool—10% larger than the previous design.

Out of the water, new decking with trench-style drains offers a flatter surface, to better accommodate chairs and tables and create a more intimate feel.

“We were very thoughtful about where we placed trees, umbrellas and landscaping to provide unique ‘pockets’ for privacy,” Reutter says. (Final landscaping is expected to be completed by early spring, she adds, to take advantage of North Carolina’s planting and growing season.)

In addition to the pool improvements, the club’s bath house was relocated to be more central to the overall pool deck and converted to a brand-new kids’ clubhouse with a large changing area. Additional steps and entry areas that lead to the grill and snack bar provide easy access to and from the pool for families.

“Everything is in close proximity, for the convenience of members and their guests,” adds Reutter.

3 Key Considerations For a Cost-Effective Pool Renovation

• Plan Ahead, and Time Your Construction Window
Every club in the country wants to have outdoor pool renovations completed and their upgraded pools filled, chemically balanced and heated by Memorial Day weekend. But pool renovations and construction can be delayed by a long winter or a late spring, combined with delays from spring’s erratic, rainy conditions.
For major renovations, begin planning about four to eight months prior and try to issue contracts so work can begin in the fall, immediately after the end of the normal pool season, to give contractors plenty of time to meet project schedules. For indoor pools, try to time projects so they begin when an outdoor pool opens; this will generally provide 90 to 100 days to complete the project.

• Consider Staged Renovations
If budgets are tight, ask design teams about a staged renovation. Although it is always less costly to integrate work in one project scope, some modern technology options allow for a renovation to be done in stages over several years. This is helpful for clubs that may be facing a pressing need for a renovation, but don’t have the budget to tackle it all at once.

• Design/Build vs. Design/Bid/Build
Companies that specialize in aquatic facility renovations typically have their own in-house engineering design staffs that can provide clubs with a full and complete set of project plans at a significantly reduced cost. Design/Build contracts are easier on the budget—costing 15% to 25% less—and offer longer warranties of up to 10 years, compared with the typical one or two years for Design/Bid/Build projects.

Source: RenoSys Corporation

While the CC of Landfall did not encounter any weather-related issues during the renovation, the installation of a 7,200-gallon surge tank, which was required to store water during swim time, necessitated the construction of a special underground frame for support.

“Great care was taken to divert the stormwater to drains within landscaped areas,” Reutter says. “Placing drains in these areas helps to both conceal the drains and provide water to the plantings.”

Because proper construction permits were not obtained in time to open the pool for last year’s season, the club made agreements with two neighboring facilities in Wilmington, Porters Neck Country Club and Cape Fear Country Club, for members to use their pools.

Now ready and waiting for this year’s upcoming pool season, the club held a ribbon-cutting ceremony and member grand opening in January 2018 that generated great excitement. And a special community-wide open house for prospective members was scheduled to take place on February 17 and 18.

Best of all, Reutter reports that within the first month since the pool complex’s opening, sports memberships are up 200% from last year. “In addition to constant ‘wows,’ our members are telling us that it is more than they expected and well worth the investment,” she says.

Ask and Ye Shall Receive
When membership at Chattahoochee Country Club in Gainesville, Ga., recently expressed an interest in a pool complex that provided more space for young families, management paid close attention. With the help of the club’s Board and planning committee, 14 focus groups representing different member demographics were assembled.

Chattahoochee Country Club, Gainesville, Ga.

“We even formed a design committee comprised of club members, to ensure that we were in line with they wanted,” says General Manager Matthew Collins. In addition, a tour of neighboring pool facilities in the Atlanta area helped members make more informed choices.

The result was a completely refurbished junior Olympic-sized swimming pool and a new connected slide pool, along with an open-air dining pavilion and poolside bar. The existing pool snack bar kitchen was also remodeled, so Chattahoochee’s culinary staff could serve its a la carte menu to pavilion diners.

Construction began in November 2016 and the renovated pool and snack bar opened in June 2017, followed by the aquatic center later that month.

Placement of the new pool was a no-brainer, as the existing facility overlooking the lake already provided a premier view. Open land adjacent to the current pool only helped to sweeten the deal.

“Our primary concern was giving members a comfortable resort-style feel at the aquatic center,” explains Collins.

Hilton Marco Island Beach Resort and Spa, Marco Island, Fla.

To enhance the existing pool, the interior was re-plastered and new decking, coping and pavers were added, to create a consistent look throughout the complex. While the pool assumes 5,000 sq. ft., an additional 7,500 sq. ft. of deck space and 1,500 sq. ft. for the pavilion (including a full-service bar and a la carte seating for up to 60) completes the picture.

To better appeal to the club’s youngest members, the 100-foot, figure-8 water slide was moved to the new pool, and a zero-entry “sprayground” was added, featuring a mushroom, large dump bucket, spray tunnel, bubblers, and smaller dump buckets for younger kids. Easy access is provided by a footbridge that runs over a short waterway, with decking that Collins describes as ideal for “slightly submerged sunbathing, while keeping an eye on your family.”

Over the course of construction, Chattahoochee CC faced a substantial setback that ultimately delayed the project’s completion. Having planned to increase the size of the septic system, dirt samples were unearthed, only to learn that organic materials had been buried in the same place. “We wound up having all of that dirt taken away and truckloads brought in to replace it,” says Collins.

Chattahoochee Country Club, Gainesville, Ga.

As a result, the renovated pool opened two weeks later than expected, while the dining pavilion was four weeks behind schedule and the slide pool was five weeks late.

Despite these challenges, the club’s new aquatic additions were well worth the effort—and wait. “In the pool’s high season, we saw a 103% increase in food-and-beverage revenue over 2016,” Collins notes. “Pool usage levels increased by 86%, and our guest visits increased 165% over 2016.” In addition, a slight uptick in member sales was attributed to interest in the new pool facilities.

Much of that success, Collins believes, can be traced to the value of the club’s focus groups. “We asked, they spoke up, and we listened,” he says. “When thinking about planning a huge renovation, you may not realize that listening [to members] is one of the biggest planning factors.”

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