Clubs are now being viewed as destinations in their own right and ones that people and families don’t have to go very far to experience, or be limited in how often they can be visited.
Being a “destination” is a status and term usually reserved for resorts or vacation clubs, and not often applied to traditional private city, golf and country clubs.
As part of the positive fallout those latter types of clubs have experienced in the past year of restricted travel, however, they are now being viewed more as destinations in their own right—and ones that people and families don’t have to go very far to experience, or be limited in how often they can be visited.
The term was used in the analysis that followed the recent announcement that The Union League of Philadelphia (Pa.) was acquiring The ACE Club in the Philadelphia suburb of Lafayette HIll (the property will be renamed Liberty Hill), as the latest addition to the portfolio of properties the city club has assembled around its iconic downtown location in recent years, to offer its more than 4,000 members a variety of new options and locations for golf, dining, fitness and other recreational activities, events, meetings, and away-from-home lodging.
(In addition to the sleeping rooms in The Union League’s flagship building, it will now have 120 hotel rooms and a conference facility space that can host 500 by adding The ACE Club, which was originallly built by Chubb Insurance as a corporate retreat and meeting hub. The 311-acre property also has enough excess land, the Business Journal noted, that The Union League plans to add Indoor and outdoor pools and a fast-casual dining concept—and the addition of facilities including outdoor tennis, pickleball and bocce courts, and even a small riding stable may also be considered.)
The ACE Club will now be added to the two other golf clubs The Union League owns in northeast Philadelphia (The Union League Golf Club at Torresdale) and New Jersey (the Union League National Golf Club, in Swainton). The club also operates the Guard House, after acquiring a popular 18th-century inn on Philadelphia’s Main Line, and The Bungalow, a seasonal, BYOB private dining room in the upscale New Jersey shore town of Stone Harbor.
In reporting on The Ace Club acquisition, the Philadelphia Business Journal noted that The Union League “continues to explore other real estate opportunities as part of an effort to build a network of destinations for its members throughout the region.”
With each acquisition it makes, the Business Journal noted, The Union League “ is seeking to provide amenities and a lifestyle club for its members.” It’s all part of an ongoing strategy, current President Craig Mills told the Business Journal, where “everything you like to do, you have the opportunity to do it in the environment of The Union League and with fellow members. We’re trying to create something so that no matter what you like to do within this area, there is a place you can go.”
Mills added that The Union League regularly receives proposals from other area organizations and property owners, the Business Journal reported. “We can’t pursue them all,” he said. But for the ones that have made sense and have been consummated, he added, “so far it’s working,” and the response from members about The Ace Club acquisition has been “incredible, overwhelming and universally positive.”
The Business Journal report even went so far as to draw a comparison between what The Union League is doing regionally and what management firms like ClubCorp do to offer members access to their full network of clubs, as well as affiliated resort and hotel properties. That part of the club business has also seen significant gains over the past year, in large part through their success in promoting clubs as “destinations,” too. And many individual clubs, as evidenced by membership growth spurred by new pools and other facilities and amenities, have also demonstrated that journeys to find appealing new destinations really don’t have to involve much distance at all.