Clubs that are expanding and enhancing pool facilities and their surroundings are becoming the place to be, by offering members a safe outdoor experience with refreshed accommodations.
After a tumultuous year of revamped business operations that required social distancing, stepped-up sanitation and other newly implemented safety precautions, clubs’ outdoor pool facilities have become a welcome respite. With pools being praised for their spacious footprints, fresh-air atmosphere and universal age appeal, properties are investing in full-fledged complexes that concentrate as much on dry-land amenities as they do on the main attraction.
Getting Everyone in the Pool
At Princess Anne Country Club in Virginia Beach, Va., a redesign of the existing pool area will not only enhance the property, but offer dedicated space for ancillary activities. This June, the facility will cut the ribbon on an aquatics center featuring a 7,007-sq. ft. junior Olympic swimming pool that will be better designed to suit the full range of member needs (see renderings, this page and pg. 36).
“The complex plays host to a variety of demographics for myriad uses, from lap swimming to lounging, swim and dive teams, aqua fitness, birthday parties and more,” says General Manager Bill Shonk, CCM, CCE. The new structure will replace an outdated facility, originally constructed in 1992, that was demolished to make room for the expanded layout.
The new zero-entry pool will be outfitted with six lap lanes; a diving well with two one-meter diving boards; an in-water sun shelf, and water spray toys. An 18,000-sq. ft. deck area will feature a 766-sq. ft. cabana bar that seats ten; an 875-sq. ft. lounge deck; nine pergola cabanas, resort-style seating, on-deck dining, and an entry building with family restrooms.
The cabanas will contain a mix of soft seating and dining tables—ideal for daily pool use, parties and adult gatherings—while the lounge area will have chaise lounges and soft, modular seating for adults only.
To help maintain distinct zones that strike a balance between “land and sea,” designers opted for multiple platforms. “To move away from the traditional country-club pool design of sprawling concrete decks and provide a more resort-style feel, the new pool deck is made of pavers in varying sizes and includes a synthetic, 834-sq. ft. turf area where sunbathers can take a break from swimming and enjoy a game of cornhole or bocce,” says Shonk.
Recognizing members’ need to stay connected while visiting the club, Wi-Fi capabilities will be made available throughout the aquatics complex, with outlets in cabanas and charging stations at the lifeguard station.
In addition to prioritizing member-driven perks, the redesign has also encompassed back-of-the-house updates to improve operational efficiencies. The lifeguard office and laundry facilities will be situated next to each other for greater accessibility, while tablets are used for tableside point-of-sale. The addition of digital signage throughout the space will keep members informed of the latest club happenings.
As Princess Anne awaits opening day for the newly minted pool complex, safety measurements imposed last year for a COVID-restricted pool operation will remain intact. But Shonk believes the larger footprint will allow members to space themselves out easily and the addition of technological advancements—including security cameras at pool entry points and the use of member photos upon check-in—will ensure a more secure, enjoyable member experience.
Rebranding its image from a golf-centric club to a broader environment, 97-year-old Vero Beach (Fla.) Country Club has found a new calling with its recently added pool and adjoining fitness and dining facilities (see photo, opposite page).
“With an average age of 73, there was a desire to attract a younger demographic—and in order to do so, it was realized that more family-friendly amenities would be needed,” says General Manager/COO Timothy R. Straley, CCM. The large-scale improvement project, which was unveiled to the membership at the end of 2020, encompassed a fitness center, snack bar and outdoor dining and bar area
The main draw is the club’s 3,012-sq. ft. pool that is surrounded by over 10,000 sq. ft. of travertine decking. While designers had considered implementing a baby pool and splash-pad area, space constraints dictated using a large beach entry to serve as a suitable play area.
A total of 60 umbrella tables and 24 chaise lounges are situated poolside, with space for up to 300 guests in the deck area. Adjacent to the pool are a fitness center, which houses a classroom that doubles as event space, as well as locker rooms that serve both gym-goers and swimmers.
An equally popular spot competing for members’ attention is the Key West-style dining and bar. Just off the pool, this spot has openings on three sides, with hurricane shutters that can be pulled down at night, and a peaked interior beadboard roof.
The large U-shaped bar seats 22 patrons who can enjoy a drink while taking in games from the two 85-inch TVs located behind the bar and two 55-inch sets nestled in the opposite corners. “It provides a great view of the ninth green and has become a favorite gathering place after rounds are completed,” says Straley in describing the dining and bar facility.
In fact, the club’s waterside watering hole has been especially busy during the winter months, particularly when pool usage has been relatively quiet. Straley attributes this revenue stream to the surge in pandemic-driven outdoor meals, where socially distanced tables on the pool’s spacious decking have proved to be especially popular.
All membership categories at Vero Beach CC have reached their maximums, generating a wait list for prospective members. “We are seeing more visits per week from the membership, as they are coming to check out the facilities and bringing family and friends to show them as well,” Straley says.
Straley is most encouraged by the signs of a season where everyone is ready to get back into the swim of things. “The best feedback we have received so far has been watching all the smiling kids and parents splashing around and having fun,” he says.
Worth the Wait
After two seasons without a pool, not to mention a global pandemic that upended normal business operations, members at Urbana (Ill.) Country Club are ready to dive headfirst into the water. Come Memorial Day weekend, the club will unveil its renovated pool as part of a $26 million improvement project.
“Two years ago, we decided to improve a tired pool house and a very traditional rectangular-shaped country club pool,” explains General Manager Scott Szymoniak, PGA. “At the same time, we were investigating building a couple of four-bedroom cottages on the golf course and decided to morph the two projects into one.”
To create a resort-style pool experience that would also appeal to lap swimmers, the club opted for two side-by-side pools, amassing 3,809 sq. ft. and connected in the center (see rendering, above). The concept was designed to enable swimming from one side to the other, without having to get out of the water.
Special features include a spinning vortex, underwater bench, splash pad, two lap lanes and a diving well. (A 12-person hot tub that is expected to be open year-round is also part of the design.) With a maximum capacity capped at 125 guests, the pool area contains a mix of loungers, chairs, tables and umbrellas, with a shaded patio that doubles as a stage for live entertainment and a shaded dining area.
Further enhancing the pool area is a facility well-stocked with dry-land attractions. “To create a resort experience that was focused on all-around wellness, we decided to add amenities that we felt were missing for our market at a luxury level,” says Szymoniak.
Within the 30,000-sq. ft., three-level building is a full-service spa, gathering room and bar, fitness center, gaming room with two golf simulators, and eight guest suites. Custom-built furniture and a high-tech A/V system provide a modern touch to the surrounding space.
The decision to outfit several areas in luxury vinyl tile speaks to the practical, Szymoniak notes. “We anticipate members being in their bathing suits,” he explains. “We were able to still keep a sophisticated look in the same areas, to also be able to use them for more formal club events.”
As Urbana CC gears up for its Memorial Day opening, preparations are being made for festivities that will be memorable, but safe. Instead of one big bash, three separate parties on Saturday, Sunday and Monday will help to limit the number of attendees. In addition, pool guests will not be permitted until mid-July.
Minor variations are poised to make a major improvement at Norfolk (Neb.) Country Club. Although its circa-1960s pool has remained largely untouched, management decided to upgrade the existing set-up with a variety of cosmetic and logistical enhancements, while maintaining the original 2,914-sq. ft. dimensions and 259-sq. ft. wading pool. The new facility, which will also include refreshed decking and dining areas, is slated to open Memorial Day weekend.Rather than utilizing a traditional concrete base that requires yearly scraping and painting, the pool will be sprayed with a reinforced polymeric, resin-based compound touted for its water-tight design. “We are keeping the concrete structure of the pool itself, just fixing some cracking and erosion areas before we apply the new interior surface,” explains General Manager Jeff Kuhn. New pool tiling and coping, along with myriad interior updates (new skimmers, main drain plumbing, main drain sump, circulation and suction lines, and return and overflow lines), will complete the behind-the-scenes transformation.
Member-focused enhancements include a new pool basketball hoop; diving platform and board; lifeguard chair; and designer handrails, ladders and stair rails. Five color-changing fixtures will benefit nighttime swimmers, while younger pool goers can enjoy safe water play in the wading pool, now cordoned off by a 40-foot wrought iron fence. Members also have a place to charge their devices, thanks to newly installed USB ports in the guard shack and around the pool.
While the pool’s footprint remains untouched, the surrounding decking area has been extended 12 feet and features a concrete, slip-resistant overlay. The extra space holds 80 lounge chairs and 20 tables with umbrellas. Three cabanas, which are available for rent, include two 10 x 10 set-ups with lounge chairs and bar-height tables, and a 12 x 10 model outfitted with patio furniture.
Members can grab some light bites at the club’s new 20 x 16 pool bar (see rendering, above), and choose from a menu of ice cream, frozen drinks and other snacks and beverages. A clear garage door flips open to a bar area where up to eight guests can enjoy their refreshments. “The bar will also serve the golfers on the opposite side before, during and after play,” says Kuhn.
Anticipating a strong pool season this year, special measures will allow members to enjoy their visit while still adhering to safety precautions. By implementing the ForeTees app, three time slots for pool usage (11 a.m.-2 p.m., 2:25-5:15 p.m. and 5:30-8:30 p.m.) can be booked in advance, permitting the club to limit the number of attendees.
And with a more efficient pool heating system now in place, the club expects to extend the season through September rather than close on Labor Day weekend. “This will give more value to our membership types that include the pool amenity,” notes Kuhn.
Summing It Up
> Expanded decking, broken up into distinct zones, provides separate space for sunbathing, socializing and dining.
> Extra touches such as charging stations and Wi-Fi capability can modernize the pool area for members who need to stay connected.
> Integrating an outdoor pool with an indoor facility focused on wellness and fitness allows clubs to create a cohesive offering for its members.