Whatever the agenda, today’s ballrooms at club and resort properties should be flexible and adaptable, with walls, ceilings and floors providing the subtle, but important decorative elements that can help to set the right tones and moods for a full variety of events.
Once clearly the major room of any clubhouse, the ways that ballrooms must now function, and look, has changed dramatically in step with the changing nature of club life and function. As new ballrooms are designed for new clubhouses, and existing ones are renovated or retrofitted to better match today’s needs, a host of features must be considered, including accents, doors, floors, wall colorings, furnishings, and lighting. Additionally, the logistics of how the room will function, including considerations for storage, kitchen access, or stage and dance floor positioning, have become more important issues that must be factored into ballroom design projects.
Design for All Reasons, and Seasons
Just ask the folks at The Lodge at Vail, a Rock Resort in the heart of Vail Village, Colo., which invested more than $1.5 million in upgrading its 6,000-sq. ft. ballroom last May. The ballroom renovation was part of a larger project, which began in the spring of 2006 and was completed in May 2008, that included the addition of an 11,000-sq. ft. spa and fitness facility and a private mountain club built adjacent to The Lodge.
|A dramatic staircase, crystal chandeliers and soaring ceilings set the tone in Prestonwood Country Club’s Grand Ballroom.|
“Our ‘new’ ballroom provides a wide variety of revenue opportunities,” says Carrie Mosner, the resort’s public relations liaison. “Group business complements our mid-week winter season, evening out peaks and valleys. Groups and weddings are our primary business segments throughout our spring, summer, and fall time frames. Social catering is a key element to our food and beverage operations, and a large part of what drives our culinary reputation throughout the year.”
The Lodge’s original ballroom was designed in a slight “T” shape, to allow it to be sectioned off to accommodate smaller groups of from 10 to 40 people at a time. Multiple sections can be opened to increase the size and accommodate from 40 to 125 people, with the full capacity of 300 made available when the room is kept completely open.
SUMMING IT UP
• Ballrooms should be designed with flexible functionality that can maximize their full use and potential profitability.
The ballroom floor is entirely carpeted, but a portable hardwood floor/stage can be laid over the carpet for certain events. The original design also provided for an adjoining banquet kitchen and storage area, to help the ballroom stay ready to accommodate a variety of events.
For the recent upgrade, Mosner says, “the room layout was not changed—only the cosmetics and functionality.
“The new design elements are a departure from the traditional mountain motif,” she adds. “There is a more contemporary look and feel now, which provides greater flexibility for social events while still allowing a comfortable and functional setting for meetings.”
For the renovations, The Lodge utilized accents that would complement the geographical location and setting of the property, including wood beams and warm earth tones accented by cobalt blue elements that flow throughout the carpeting, and iridescent wall treatments. Inspiration was drawn from the Colorado state flower, the columbine, with shades of violet, periwinkle, gold, and cream used throughout the ballroom and adjacent pre-function areas. Even the contemporary stacking chairs were upholstered in dark blue and periwinkle fabric, to tie everything together.
In addition, the decorative ceiling lighting at The Lodge was updated, using tiered, linen drum shades featuring clusters of metal scrolls and crystals at their bases that reflect the carpet design. Architectural lighting was enhanced at the same time, to increase overall illumination and further highlight the new color scheme. Special attention was also paid to how the range of seasons could contribute to dramatically different appearances for the ballroom throughout the year, with large windows on the south wall capturing Vail Mountain views to present dramatic backdrops for meetings and social events.
|With the proper technology, even ballrooms with limited space can be adapted for meetings and conferences. For a complete “Ballroom to Boardroom” checklist, see below.|
When Prestonwood Country Club in Cary, N.C., began to host a wedding nearly every week of the year—and the demographics of its membership made it clear that this happy trend would only stand to continue as more and more of the members’ children grew up to get married—the club decided to unburden its clubhouse by adding a dedicated ballroom/event facility.
The challenge when designing the new ballroom was to blend the addition with Prestonwood’s existing architecture in a way that would make the integration visually seamless, from both the interior and exterior views. Similar materials were used to create a smaller version of a balcony, with the same column and rail detailing, that could be found at the rear elevation of the clubhouse.
Spacious yet intimate, the final result was a new Grand Ballroom that can accommodate groups from 100 to 1,000. A dramatic staircase, crystal chandeliers and soaring ceilings set the tone indoors (see photo at right), while a expansive veranda now invites guests to enjoy beautiful daytime views of the golf course and stunning, starlit nights. A newly added commercial kitchen serves the ballroom exclusively.
Additionally, Prestonwood’s new ballroom is outfitted with state-of-the-art audio/visual equipment, including four 3,500- lumen, drop-down LCD projectors; four 12-foot, drop-down, electronically-controlled screens; ten concealed wall boxes, with inputs for VGA, 5-video, component video and BNC Pro Video sources; stereo mini-plug inputs for all line-level devices, including laptops, DVD and MP3 players; digital cable access; full Internet access with wireless capability, and complete A/V sound with house band reinforcement system.
Redrawing the Lines
Sometimes a property—especially an older one—does not have an adequate ballroom from the outset and has to play “catch up.” Better late than never, in these cases.
The Moraine Country Club, in Dayton, Ohio, was founded more than 75 years ago with badminton courts that, over time, became obsolete. As part of a $3.2 million renovation several years ago, approximately 25% of the budget was devoted to converting the courts to a clubhouse addition that would house a multiple-purpose ballroom with a capacity from 240 to 300. “In our case, the location was determined by utilizing the same footprint of the old facility, which was next to the kitchen and very convenient,” General Manager Matt Baumer reports.
“Many older facilities also contend with a hodgepodge of rooms that are used to make up a collective banquet facility,” Baumer adds. “But we wanted flexibility to provide one continuous venue for large groups—especially for weddings, since brides typically like to ‘be seen’ wherever they go.”
“Our design incorporated a movable, paneled wall that can adjust the size of the total room down by one-third, or allow two separate groups at the same time,” he continues. “For aesthetic enhancement, we contracted with a local artist to paint faux columns and windows on both sides of the movable wall, so the guests do not view a solid color wall. And, because stationary, permanent bars tend to limit customized service opportunities, we only use portable bars, so we can locate them to maximize service to members and guests, and minimize labor costs.”
|The University Club of Saint Paul’s Grand Ballroom has been painstakingly restored to its original grandeur.|
Other key objectives of Moraine’s ballroom addition included providing separation from “members only” areas of the clubhouse (with dedicated restrooms, a coat room and a phone booth for cell phones), and creating a pre-function entry area and outdoor space, with an adjoining wrap-around covered patio, with seating for an additional 200 people. Shortly after the renovation, the new room was enhanced by adding several large mirrors to break up space on walls that did not have windows. High-quality carpeting, a permanent dance floor, and tasteful lighting with minimal furnishings were also added.
The dance floor remains the centerpiece of the ballroom, but the overall design presents several configurations for placement of a band, entertainment, or speaker. Traditional tables and chairs have worked very well without any special modification. As with many older clubs, original storage was not adequate, but new storage areas, while “not ideal,” according to Baumer, now offer “a huge improvement over the old.”
“Our ballroom has been underutilized for many years,” Baumer acknowledges. “However, because the overall revenue [from the ballroom] greatly improves our bottom line, we have recently relaxed restrictions to permit more member-sponsored events. Currently, we are marketing this policy change softly.”
Preserving—and Enhancing—the Past
The University Club of Saint Paul was founded in Minnesota’s capital city in 1917. It now has operations in three separate locations, including the 14-story Downtown Clubhouse, formerly the site of the historic St. Paul Athletic Club.
Using existing space to maximum efficiency has always been critical to the club’s success. And that’s held especially true for the Downtown Clubhouse’s Grand Ballroom. “It is very important, and in fact is our most profitable room,” says John Rupp, the club’s owner and preservationist who also serves as its President and Treasurer.
To further enhance its appeal and potential, the Grand Ballroom has been painstakingly restored to its original grandeur; Rupp estimates that approximately $150,000 was budgeted for the 12-month restoration. The two-story room, which seats 400 comfortably, now once again features an intricate, ornamental plaster ceiling, dark marble walls, ornate chandeliers, and other tasteful appointments that people have come to expect from the University Club.
Perhaps the most impressive features are the perfectly restored, two-story windows. Covered up during the energy-efficiency mania of the ‘70s, these magnificent arches have now been opened up again, to allow both southern and western exposures and fill the Grand Ballroom with an abundance of natural light throughout the day.
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