In this excerpt from C+RB’s special report on management companies, learn how KemperSports helped its properties—and the country as a whole—with its “Rain Suits for Responders” initiative through the global pandemic. Steve Skinner, KemperSports CEO, was one of the leading and earliest voices advocating for golf courses to reopen. “Our position is that golf should be one of the first activities to open,” he said. “It’s safer than going for a walk or a run.”
While providing resources and expertise so their portfolios’ properties could navigate the pandemic, multi-club operators also made moves to prepare for the “new normal” and lent muscle to the country’s larger recovery effort. This special report provides updates on how the year unfolded for several of the leading U.S.-based management companies, focusing on how they marshalled their collective resources to not only support the needs of their properties, but also the larger recovery efforts for the club industry, the regions they operate in, and the country as a whole. The report can be found in its entirety in the latest Club + Resort Business digital issue (https://clubandresortbusiness.com/category/digital-issue/).
Here is the portion of the report dedicated to KemperSports:
Northbrook, Ill.-based KemperSports, with a portfolio of over 130 daily-fee facilties, resorts and semi-private and private clubs, has always had a strong and influential industry voice, reflecting its affiliation with KemperLesnik, a sister firm specializing in corporate public relations and sports and event marketing.
That voice was exerted with special effectiveness in the early days following the coronavirus outbreak, with KemperSports executives and managers leading the drumbeat for reopening golf courses. “You’ve got 70 people spread over 200 acres,” KemperSports CEO Steve Skinner, who was frequently contacted for comment on the subject, often said. “Our position is that golf should be one of the first activities to open. It’s safer than going for a walk or a run.”
Skinner was also among the first to anticipate the long-range opportunities for golf, telling Travel Weekly in April that he already saw the potential for the sport being boosted by the pandemic and that he expected a surge in demand to last throughout the year. “Hopefully, we’ll get some people who haven’t played for a while, and they’ll fall in love with it,” he said.
In a blog entry written a few weeks later, Skinner confirmed that was indeed taking place, and advocated for the industry to make sure the moment was properly seized.
“As we celebrate [course] re-openings, we cannot help but smile as we hear stories of first-timers, families and occasional players booking tee times in an attempt to enjoy the open air and find a different form of entertainment and challenge,” he wrote. “Properties are witnessing new players flock to the game like never before, and we are anxious to see the lasting result of this resurgence. Even in these trying times, it is incumbent upon the golf industry to share with newcomers how special golf can be.”
As a special charitable initiative, KemperSports partnered with the Illinois PGA Foundation, FootJoy and the VFW Department of Illinois on a “Rain Suits for Responders” program that provided healthcare workers with new or gently used waterproof golf rain suits that could serve as reusable personal protection equipment. A special website was set up where donors could register a shipment and receive a free shipping label via e-mail, so after the rain suit was packaged donors could schedule a pickup at their home or drop off their donation package at a local shipping facility. Monetary donations were also accepted and for every $100 donated, KemperSports and FootJoy provided brand-new rain suits.
The year also brought milestone announcements for two of KemperSports’ most prominent properties. The company has been engaged for the management of the golf operations of the acclaimed Streamsong Resort in Bowling Green, Fla. since its opening in 2012, with Aimbridge Hospitality running the property’s lodge, restaurant and bars. But in November it was announced that, effective January 1, 2021, KemperSports would now manage all aspects of the 16,000-acre property’s operation.
KemperSports has also managed Sand Valley in Rome, Wis. since its opening in 2017, following the model it has executed successfully for the Keiser family since the inception of Bandon Dunes in Oregon. When C+RB featured Sand Valley as its October 2018 cover story, the possibility was acknowledged of the property becoming a year-round operation, to take advantage of the potential and appeal beyond its golf courses for shoulder-season and winter amenities and activities, including fat-tire biking, cross-country skiing, spa services and more. In December of 2020, that change was confirmed.
“We’re incredibly excited to introduce guests to the raw beauty and unique landscape of central Wisconsin throughout all four seasons,” said co-owner Chris Keiser. “This year more than ever, people are looking for a safe way to escape with their family and loved ones. With a plethora of outdoor adventures to explore, we feel that we’re well-positioned and prepared to give guests that perfect Midwest getaway.”
Other notable announcements for KemperSports in 2020 included its engagement to manage Reston (Va.) National Golf Course, a 50-year-old, 168-acre property outside of Washington, D.C. that was bought by developers in 2019. While that purchase raised community concerns that the open space of the property would be threatened, the appointment of Kemper-Sports to manage the club, combined with Skinner’s comment that his firm would now strive to make the Ed Ault-designed golf course “a must-play in the region,” did much to ease that anxiety.
The year also brought the grand opening of The Yacht Club in Rockwall, Texas, which KemperSports was named to manage and relaunch in 2019, after an extensive renovation and rebranding. Formerly known as Chandlers Landing Yacht Club and Allure, the club is part of a resort-style neighborhood, Chandlers Landing, on the waterfront of Lake Ray Hubbard.