Basketball and volleyball courts and indoor facilities for year-round sports are envisioned by the new owners who are investing $18 million in the storied Wilmington, Del. club. “By just doing a better job listening to the market, we can turn this thing around,” says new owner and longtime member Ben duPont. “The experts say families are looking for more things to do together over a shorter period of time.”
Family heir Ben duPont and Don Wirth, a former DuPont Company executive, recently announced they’re not only buying the DuPont Country Club in Wilmington , Del. (http://clubandresortbusiness.com/2018/04/dupont-heir-buy-dupont-cc-make-18m-updates/) but also investing millions to spruce it up, WHYY, Philadelphia’s public-radio station, reported. And the new owners, who are long-time members of the club believe that making the DuPont Country Club more family-friendly will be the key to increasing membership and profits.
Currently, WHYY reported, there are 1,750 members at the DuPont Country Club, down from 5,000 in 2004. But duPont told the station that he believes that “by just doing a better job listening to the market, we can turn this around.”
“The experts that I’ve talked to, and I agree with this consensus, say families are looking for more things to do together over shorter periods of time,” duPont said. “So that means 18 holes of golf for dad by himself or mom by herself is out.
“But nine holes, or a rock-climbing wall, or a chance to get fitness and swim in a pool, or hit golf balls in a driving range — those things are actually on the uptick nationally,” duPont added.
As part of the $18 million that the new owners say they will invest to upgrade the club, WHYY reportred, initiatives will include improving the Internet speed at the club and within its facilities, and creating a phone app to allow members to use their phones to make reservations for themselves or their children, order takeout service or reserve a meeting space. Elevating the quality of foodservice at the club is also a key goal.
This summer, duPont told WHYY, construction will begin on three all-season swimming pools, a 15,000- sq. ft. fitness facility and an indoor golf driving range. Construction is expected to be complete by summer 2020.
The club’s three golf courses and 25 tennis courts will largely remain untouched, WHYY reported, although duPont said the club’s par-3 course might go from 18 holes down to nine or 12.
DuPont told WHYY that he sees the club as less of a country club and more as an athletic club. “Let’s spend four hours together,” he describes as the intent behind the changes for all members of the family. “Mom will go work out, dad will go swimming with junior, and the older kids will go play out on the golf course and we’ll all meet for lunch.
“I think long range, if we’re successful as I think we can be, you’ll see us add things like basketball courts, volleyball courts [and] indoor facilities for year-round sports,” he added.
When the DuPont Company listed the country club for sale last summer, WHYY reported, many feared a developer would swoop in and build new houses on the 525 acres of open space. Adding to that uncertainty, the deed restrictions that had limited how the land was to be used were removed.
“There was a lot of apprehension around the Dow-DuPont merger in and of itself because of the impact on people and their jobs, and what may or may not happen in Delaware, and underlying that tension was the country club,” recounted Republican state Sen. Greg Lavelle, who grew up across the street from the club and still lives nearby.
“Clearly we know how important it is to the surrounding community,” Lavelle added about the 98-year-old club. “It’s a gem in terms of golf and recreation and all of that and then the inherent land preservation that surrounds it. There’s a lot of history there so people were worried about that.”
But when it was announced that duPont and Wirth were the new owners, there was a collective sigh of relief, WHYY reported.
“This announcement represents an ideal outcome for the DuPont Country Club and the local community,” said DowDuPont CEO Ed Breen in a written statement. “As local investors with deep Delaware roots, Ben duPont and Don Wirth are the perfect buyers to build on the club’s past to create an even greater experience for the Wilmington community moving forward.”
And has word spread about the sale and the enhancements, duPont told WHYY, 50 people have already joined as members.
“Why would you join something where the future of it was uncertain—so I think there was some pent up demand here,” duPont said of the uptick. “With a little bit of investment here, we think we can certainly get our money back and if we’re lucky, make some.”
Dues will remain steady through 2019, duPont told WHYY, adding that he thinks a max capacity of 3,500 members will ensure that the club doesn’t get too crowded.
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