At a spry 93 years old, the Cleveland Country Club has seen three generations of members come and go, but is still finding new ways to grow.
Since April construction crews have been busy tearing down walls, pulling out columns and resurfacing floors as the club undergoes its first major renovation in years.
“Our building is almost 100 years old. It’s 93, and so it needed some updating,” said Allyson Darling, general manager of Cleveland Country Club.
Some of those updates, like refinished greens and updated sand traps on the golf course or refinishing the tennis courts has already been completed. Others, like a redesigned swimming pool area and fitness center, are still to come.
Focusing on the social side
For now, the club is focusing on its main building with a goal of creating a new space that is less about getting in rounds of golf and more for people looking to meet and socialize.
“From a social and dining aspect, the world has changed quite a bit. It used to be about golf and tennis supported by social. Now it’s social supported by golf and tennis,” said Phillip Higginbotham, membership director.
The updated bar, which used to hold about eight people sitting shoulder to shoulder, will hold about 20 people comfortably and will have a dining room directly behind it.
Along the back wall are a row of newly installed windows, giving a good view of the golf course behind the club.
“We had these very thin paneled windows that we felt obstructed the view of the golf course, and we have a great view and why are blocking it off with these windows? So, they came in and really opened it up,” said Darling.
The ballroom, which was among the first structures built for the club in 1927, is also getting some love. Plans for the room include resurfaced floors and a reframed fire place as well as new light fixtures and a more modern dividing wall between the ballroom and the bar.
Darling said the club hopes the redesigned area will be a common place for club and community gatherings once the coronavirus pandemic has ended.
“Social programming is a big deal at any club, and once we get through the pandemic our social calendar, we are putting a lot of love into it,” she said.
The outside the club has also undergone an overhaul. Gone is the old plastic railing and white columns around the rear deck. They will be replaced by a more modern design which should provider a better view of the golf course.
All of the work at the club is being done by JPS Building Group, a relatively new construction company based in Shelby.
Brandon Fitzmorris, owner of JPS Building Group, said he was grateful for the chance to work on the project.
“It’s a great project. We are honored to be a part of it and are truly grateful for it,” he said. “There’s always some challenges in renovating an older building like this, but we take it in stride.”
If all goes well, the work will be completed by the end of July and ready for club members to use in August.
The renovations at Cleveland Country Club are part of an ongoing effort by club members to breathe new life into one of the city’s longest-standing institutions.
Part of that plan involved the current remodel, and members donated around $1.5 million to fund the project.
“That’s one cool thing about Cleveland Country Club. I’ve been GM’ing multiple clubs around the country, and this one is special. The members here love the club, obviously,” said Darling. “They all ponied up when it was time to reinvigorate it, and they see the growth plan and the potential and they see the legacy they want to leave in Shelby and Cleveland County.”
The members’ dedication to the club has paid off so far. Over the last year, membership has grown by about 60 people, including 15 new members since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.
“I have my finger on the pulse of the club business, and a lot of clubs are seeing the opposite. They are seeing attrition rates because people aren’t accessing the clubs. It’s a lifestyle expense so with people on furlough, they are canceling (memberships),” said Darling. “We have not had that problem at Cleveland Country Club. We are increasing membership at a time when the club business is having a difficult time sustaining membership.”
Darling said she hopes that growth can continue in the coming months as the new vision for the country club includes more direct partnerships with community groups and schools wherever possible.
“The club belongs to the community. That old school hide behind the gates mentality is not what we are about here in general,” she said.
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