Baseball, Hot Dogs and the DAC
Fortuitously, the 125th anniversary of the Detroit Athletic Club (DAC)’s founding, on April 5, 1887, matched up perfectly with this year’s Major League Baseball schedule, which had the Detroit Tigers opening at home on that day with a 1 PM, nationally televised contest against the Boston Red Sox.
The DAC has had a close, long-standing connection with baseball and the Tigers. All but two of the 10 owners of the local team have been club members, including James Burns, who founded the team in 1901, and current owner Mike Illitch, who has belonged to the DAC for nearly 20 years.
Today, DAC’s downtown location literally backs up to the Tigers’ current home, Comerica Park; the club’s iconic, Albert Kahn-designed clubhouse (which will also mark a significant anniversary in 2012, turning 100) is often seen when TV cameras pan the outfield during Tigers broadcasts.
DAC has taken full advantage of its proximity to the new ballpark (and also to nearby Ford Field, home of the National Football League’s Detroit Lions) since Comerica opened in 2000. The club built a Stadium Pavilion that overlooks both venues and provides popular outdoor party space. Because of the festive atmosphere it provides on game days, The Pavilion has helped the DAC see dramatic spikes in its membership in recent years (see “City Clubs Rising,” C&RB, November 2011).
That atmosphere was especially lively on April 5, thanks to the convergence of DAC’s anniversary, perfect Opening Day spring weather, and high anticipation of the Tigers’ season after the offseason acquisition of slugging first baseman Prince Fielder, son of popular former Tiger Cecil Fielder.
Despite all of the historic significance tied to the occasion, however, coverage of the DAC’s connection to the game and the team in the April 5th Detroit Free Press focused on what the newspaper called “the ultimate in lavish lavatories.” Upon visiting the Pavilion for the Opening Day festivities, the newspaper’s reporter was most taken with a new addition this year—a custom-built outside restroom (see photo, above) that the club built to provide better facilities for Pavilion crowds that can swell to over 600.
“Guests at downtown’s most upscale tailgates at last have a proper place to potty,” the Free Press article said. It went on to describe how DAC’s Pavilion now provides restroom facilities in a “white, trailer-size structure [that is] heated and air-conditioned. Inside, it’s finished with skylights, faux-stone counters, porcelain sinks, chrome handles, hot and cold running water, maple woodwork, paneled stall doors, framed artwork and diaper-changing units.” (Stone counters couldn’t be used, DAC Assistant Manager Craig Cutler told the newspaper, because the unit will stay outside all year.)
“The amenities are, for the most part, what you would find in the clubhouse,” Cutler added.
Managers at many club and resort properties have found inventive ways to celebrate the close of a season, through activities like fishing tournaments in swimming pools or blowout pro-shop sales that include food, drink and entertainment.
Big Sky (Mont.) Resort has taken this concept to new levels through its “Pond Skim,” held for the ninth straight year this past April 14. The event marks the closing of the ski season and features costumed skiers and snowboarders who glide down the property’s Ambush Headwall, then attempt to skim across the surface of icy ponds that have formed in the warmer weather.
The resort captures all the fun for posterity, and promotion, via YouTube, and also provides free admission for those who just want to watch (participants pay $20). It now ranks as one of the property’s most popular events—in 2011, 80 skiers and riders attempted the “Skim,” to the cheers of over 5,500 spectators. And once the Pond Skim is over, the party continues with live music in the plaza and Big Sky’s Whiskey Jack’s pub.
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