|The CIC pavilion seats 270 guests—more than the club’s two indoor banquet facilities combined.|
It’s a busy summer evening at Catawba Island Club (CIC) in Port Clinton, Ohio. While members dine on the patio or stroll along the promenade under the cloudless blue sky, a wedding reception is just getting underway in the pavilion—actually a five-year-old, 50- by-85-foot tent structure located next to the main clubhouse, and less than 75 feet from the gentle waves of Lake Erie that are lapping onto the shore.
“Ladies and gentlemen, allow me to introduce the newlyweds, Jason and Sarah,” says the disc jockey over the speaker system.
As these words are spoken, a flurry of activity commences behind the scenes, as the CIC food and beverage team prepares to serve more than 200 guests. General Manager Mike Schenk appears from the clubhouse pulling a foodwarming cart behind him. This summer, events in the pavilion have kept him and his staff busier than ever.
“Every Saturday, this facility is booked from the first weekend in May to the second weekend in October,” he explains. “We have taken our wedding business and easily quadrupled it. In the past, we did six to eight weddings a year. Now we do 24 to 30 weddings.We definitely have exceeded my expectations and will beat every other year so far.”
Schenk adds that the facility has been well worth the expense.
“Since we invested so much money in a setting like that, we said right from the get-go it would cost a little extra for using the site,” he says. “Therefore, the initial investment, excluding furnishings and later add-ons, has paid off in four years.”
Made-to-Order vs. Mail-Order
Schenk’s outlook wasn’t so sunny in 2001, when the club started a $1 million project to build a new lakeside swimming pool (C&RB, June 2006, p. 10). The plans, which also called for a permanent, fixed pavilion structure on the site of the old pool, changed with a simple soil test.
“We found that we’d have to do a lot of structural work to support the new pool,” Schenk remembers. “It added $280,000 to our budget. So it meant we had to look for an alternative to a fullfledged building with a fixed roof [on the site of the old pool].”
|Now CIC members and pavilion guests can all enjoy sunset views from the promenade.|
The search for a semi-permanent structure led Schenk to the Special Event Conference and Trade Show, where he met with several tent vendors. Most were more than happy to offer to send parts and directions for installation. CIC, though, needed a little more guidance. Not only would the structure be placed on the site of the old pool, it also had to meet local building codes, which required that it be engineered to handle Lake Erie gusts that can reach 80 miles per hour. Schenk says Christopher Whitlow, Eastern Sales Manager for The SEC Group, was the only vendor who offered to visit the club and install the Olympic Tent product that CIC eventually purchased, while taking all of the special considerations into account.
Whitlow, who prides himself on customer service, also came back at the end of the first season at no extra charge, to train the club’s staff on how to dismantle the structure properly.
“Fabric structures is what we do, not what our customers do,” Whitlow comments. “Had we not assisted in the installation process, CIC would have not had the product installed for their timeline of events.”
|CIC converted the old kiddie pool into a fountain in front of the pavilion.|
Up and Running
Just three months after the first meeting with Whitlow, the club had a fully operational banquet facility. And five years later, the CIC staff is comfortable enough with the tent to install and dismantle it on their own every year.
“We’ve gotten it down to a science,” Schenk says. “We had it up in three hours this year. That doesn’t include the tent liner and some of the tightening and adjusting that we have to do on the unit each year, but we’re pretty fast at just getting up the side walls and the roof structure. It’s secure. This tent isn’t going anywhere, even if it’s blowing at 80 miles per hour.”
With the structural concerns out of the way, Schenk now spends more time making sure both members and guests are comfortable, especially in the heat of summer.
“We have a lot of shade from the trees. We also have a liner, which creates an insulating factor between the roofline and the tent liner.As long as the sides are up, it’s actually cooler inside. But eventually the sides come down, because they want the view.”
On Jason and Sarah’s wedding night, guests are treated to a spectacular sight, as the sun makes its final push below the horizon. One guest says to another, “What a lovely spot for a wedding.”
Upon hearing the compliment, Schenk appears visibly pleased.
“That’s nice to hear,” he says. “Obviously, the view and setting is nice. You can only hope for good weather, and God’s been pretty good to us here. Most of our weddings seem to work out just fine.” C&RB
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