The nearly century-old facility has been shuttered since February, and half of the money for the project has already been pledged, with the remaining $3 million to be borrowed. Planned updates include a full-size fitness center, a new swimming pool with adjoining children’s pool and an outdoor veranda, remodeled dining rooms, a new indoor bar and expanded banquet facilities. The club is expected to reopen next year.
A majority of Lakeland (Fla.) Yacht & Country Club’s remaining 172 members agreed last month to an ambitious $6 million renovation of the nearly century-old facility that has been shuttered since February, the Lakeland-based Ledger reported.
Half of the money already has been pledged with the remaining $3 million to be borrowed, according to members of the club’s board of directors, the Ledger reported.
When the club reopens late next year, members will find enhanced amenities that include a full-size fitness center, a new swimming pool with adjoining children’s pool and an outdoor veranda and bar facing the lake. Club buildings and clay tennis courts will get a makeover as well, and officials say a priority will be to enhance the dining experience with remodeled rooms, a new indoor bar and expanded banquet facilities, the Ledger reported.
Ron Woodsby, president of Talk of the Town Restaurant Group with a portfolio that includes Texas Cattle Co. outlets in Lakeland and St. Petersburg, has been tapped to consult on kitchen and dining room enhancements, the Ledger reported.
“We want it to last the next hundred years,” said Kimberly Ruthven, a club board member and real estate agent.
Built in 1924 to depict a lakeside, Mediterranean villa complete with a Spanish red tile roof, the club provided a place for Polk County’s elite to dine, swim, play tennis and entertain guests. Over the years membership swelled to approximately 600, then steadied from 2010 to 2014 with an average membership of 350, Ruthven said.
Membership has declined over the past few years, however, forcing the board to take a critical look at club survival. In January, the board announced plans for a $5 million renovation that has since been adjusted, with the approval of club members, the Ledger reported.
“There’s going to be great improvements, there’s a lot going on,” builder Corey Miller said. “My parents were (Lakeland Yacht Club) members when I was a kid, so it’s very nostalgic for me. I’m just excited.”
Fundamental to making the project feasible was the discovery that much of the club’s original architecture was sound, said Ron Clark, a club board member and lawyer, the Ledger reported.
“It turns out that the 1920s club is solid as a rock,” he said. “There’s stuff that’s been added on over the years that’s deficient and has to be replaced, (but) the historic nature is going to be preserved while bringing it up to modern standards.”
Board members have yet to finalize a new plan for membership dues and fees, but age will be a factor, Clark said. “We want to build the youth (membership), they’re the future,” he said.
Members 40 years of age and younger likely will pay annual dues of approximately $2,000, while older members will pay twice that amount. A one-time initiation fee for new members also is being adjusted. Members also will be assessed a monthly fee of $95 to help pay the construction loan and build a fund for future improvements and upkeep. Any member who contributes $10,000 or more to the construction project is exempt from the monthly fee, the Ledger reported.
Membership is open to anyone, with no geographical limitations, though the board is considering keeping the roster at 350 to 400 members, to preserve a certain quality of service, the Ledger reported.
“The reason you belong to the Lakeland Yacht Club is you really want a ‘Cheers’ kind of place, where the waiter or waitress knows exactly what you like and you get to see all of your friends,” Clark said. “You can’t go into a restaurant in Lakeland and get that same experience.”
To boost membership, the improved Yacht Club will once again have an in-house general manager and executive chef, with a focus on fine dining, the Ledger reported.
“We know it’s critical to have updated facilities,” Ruthven said, “but even more than that, we are really focusing on the food, beverage and service aspect. We have not excelled in that in the last several years. We could build the best club in the world but if you have real lousy food and service, no one’s going to want to be there.”