The Rancho Santa Fe Association has a health club and pool committee exploring the option of building those facilities in the Covenant. The RSF Review asked RSF Association Director and Committee Chair Heather Slosar about the committee’s work so far.
Why are you exploring a health club and pool?
Slosar: Part of the fiduciary responsibility of a community association is to continually evaluate issues that effect valuation and sustainability. To that end, in June 2013 the RSF Association and the RSF Golf Club jointly developed a community survey in order to both better serve our residents’ needs and to provide a vehicle for members input into future, long-term planning.
The main objective was to explore strategies that would ensure continued and increased value within the Covenant, including increasing membership at our athletic facilities, both Golf and Tennis.
Our Golf Club currently has 508 members steadily decreasing from 562 in 2009 (10 percent decrease in five years) from a high of 683 in 2004 (26 percent decrease over 10 years). Our Tennis Club has seen even more drastic decreases. From 2009 to 2014 the Tennis Club memberships have decreased from 254 to 179, which represents a 30 percent decrease in the past five years alone.
Across the country, independent tennis and golf clubs, like ours, are dealing with the challenge of declining memberships. Successful club communities have learned to monetize their investments in both return on investment and attractiveness, primarily in pool, fitness and dining. The 2013 McMahon Club Trends Report indicates that 75 percent of all new members joining clubs are under age 56, and their actual age span is 30 – 55 years of age. Communities must attract younger members and younger families (a link to the McMahon Report is available on the Association website under Health Club and Pool Committee).
Amenities offered in communities today are important to members in two very important ways. First, they contribute to members’ personal enjoyment and feeling of community. Secondly, amenities affect property values. Regardless of whether any member individually desires or uses a particular amenity, they have an impact on the value of all members’ property values.
You may not walk the trails every day, attend our elementary school, or play golf or tennis but these amenities attract new buyers to our community. These are very important social opportunities that make our town very desirable to live in. Over the years, many new communities have sprung up offering facilities with many amenities including golf, tennis, health clubs, and pools, to attract a wider demographic. These communities are our competition when attracting new home buyers.
I was recently sent a home value analysis independently compiled by First American Title that compared home values in the Covenant to home values in The Bridges between 2004 and 2013. The study revealed a 16.7 percent decrease in home values in the Covenant over the same 10-year period in which The Bridges increased their home values by 12.9 percent.
Both communities offer high-end housing with some common amenities — golf, tennis, attendance at the same elementary school. Of course there are many factors that make up the difference in home valuations but there appears to be evidence that an important difference is The Bridges offers a health club and pool facility.
As a director of the Association I feel that I owe it to our community to explore the viability of a health club and pool facility and its ability to help increase the near and long-term property values of the Covenant as well as overall member satisfaction.
What is the makeup of the committee?
Slosar: There are 14 members on the committee, roughly comprised equally of men and women. They range in age from parents of young children to seniors. All are volunteers that began with very diverse opinions and ideas including two members initially opposed to the entire idea of a health club and pool (their input proved very important and over time have become much more open to the idea).
We have Director Craig McAllister and myself who are Tennis Club members as well as other representatives from the Tennis Club, Golf Club, and neighbors who live near the clubs.
In January 2014, we posted a committee formation notice to all Covenant members. This posting lasted 30 days and accepted everybody who expressed interest and could attend most of our meetings.
In addition to our committee members we have had gratis expert guidance from Lusardi Construction, Mission Pools and Mason Architecture and Design. In addition, staff from the Tennis Club and Golf Club have been helpful attending meetings and providing their expertise. We have also had many additional Covenant members come to observe our meetings and even participate. Their feedback has been very helpful in shaping our design and really understanding some of the challenges. Finally, we have paid for consulting assistance from ClubMark for some planning assistance and attendance at two of our meetings.
What progress has the committee made so far?
Slosar: We began our meetings by dividing our large committee into three teams essential for studying the viability of a health club and pool:
• Location Team
This group explored all of the location options for the proposed facility including the ball fields, Richardson, Arroyo, and the Golf and Tennis Clubs. The conclusions drawn by the location team was that due to zoning restrictions the only viable location is the Tennis and Golf Campus. The “where” on this campus is still being worked out.
• Facility Team
This group worked on the scope of the facility which included researching amenities and membership options of 11 local clubs. We also visited some local clubs including Santaluz, The Crosby, The Bridges, Lomas, and Morgan Run to learn their best practices and overall club impressions. We also did a demographic analysis of the Covenant to better understand our demographic make-up in terms of age, family make-up and likely interest in fitness and pool facilities.
• Financing Team
The financing team is a work in progress reviewing order of magnitude of construction costs, operational pro formas and developing assumptions relative to potential member growth and capital requirements. It is currently expected that if the Covenant were to approve moving forward with the project that it would be funded via initiation fees, monthly dues and Community Enhancement Funds. We will not increase assessments to pay for this project.
Any specifics yet as to what features the health club would entail? Or the pool (lap pool or more family-oriented)?
Slosar: After much research and debate our committee has come up with recommendations for facility features, square footage estimates, and pool features. They include such items as fitness machines, locker rooms, yoga and many more. For a full list, see all of the possible amenities listed on the meeting notes posted on the Association website.
Early in the fall, we will be proposing our conceptual design to all of our membership to get their input on our recommendations.
What challenges/issues have arisen?
Slosar: Location, location, location.
While we have narrowed down the general location for the health club and pool our challenge is exactly where on the tennis and golf campus to build this. We want to propose the best location to create synergy with the existing buildings (Player’s Club, Golf Dining, Tennis Club), minimize noise and disruption to Tennis and Golf members and neighbors, maximize use of existing dining facilities/kitchens/bars, minimize staffing redundancies, and maximize member satisfaction.
To help us understand these challenges and to choose the best location to drive increased membership growth for all of the athletic facilities we continue to engage club management, Club Mark and Kirk Mason, of Mason Architecture, the firm that designed Santaluz and many other clubs around the country.
Are there any estimated costs?
Slosar: It is a bit early to provide cost estimates as the exact location, size and actual amenities will all have a bearing on the cost. However, our proposed facility will most likely be in the range of 15,000 sq. ft and we have learned that a good estimate for construction of the facility is between $300 and $500 per square foot. The pool being constructed will represent about 10 percent of the overall project cost.
What kind of money has been spent to date looking into this issue or has the effort been more volunteer-driven?
Slosar: Because this is an exploratory committee we have been extremely careful spending our members’ money. Until we know that our members definitively want a health club and pool we are keeping our costs to a minimum. However, to create a credible process under the guidance of experienced consultants, some initial funds were approved by the board that would take us from concept to community meetings and vote.
We are also fortunate to have many skilled volunteers in our community which has really kept our costs down. We have volunteer architects, builders, club planners, and experts in our community. Further, we have not utilized Association staff which is a cost oftentimes overlooked in the actual expenditures of committees.
Because this is such an important project to explore, we have utilized the expertise of a country club consulting firm called ClubMark. We have spent under $10,000 to date and will not exceed the board-approved $40,000 to get this to a community vote. Additionally, we spent $8,000 on site plans of the existing Tennis Club. We did not have to spend on Golf Club plans as they were made available from the 2007 renovation.
How will the community have the opportunity to weigh in on these plans?
The Committee will host a series of community focus groups to allow full and complete transparency of the project to the community and to gain their invaluable feedback. Once completed, the consultants and Committee will review the community’s ideas and/or concerns and follow with a Town Hall meeting to present the revised plan to the community.
A preliminary vote will be presented to the community to determine whether the program should proceed to architectural designs and hard financial calculations on construction and operating costs. If voted positively, the final calculations and plans would be developed, shared with the community and voted upon.
Final vote on building health club and pool.
When is the next meeting?
Slosar: As the Committee has laid out all of the groundwork for a conceptual design, we have wrapped up our formal meetings for the season. However, we do expect to have a late summer meeting to review the conceptual design and recommendations prior to focus groups and the town hall meeting. As always, this meeting will be open to the public with the date and time being posted.
This article was originally published by the RSF Review.