Project summary Club: Park Ridge Country Club
Location: Park Ridge, Ill.
Architect: OKW Architects, Inc.
Clubhouse Construction: Phase I completed Spring 2002; Phase II completed June 2006
Cost: $5 million
• Enhanced landscaping and view corridors, including a centennial garden, to make clubhouse entrances more attractive and to create more outdoor spaces for events
• New pool with expanded deck to accommodate more family-oriented membership, along with a renovated pool house and new tennis facility
• Kitchen renovation to update equipment, create more efficient workspaces, and allow for more diverse and modern menu offerings
• Redesign of golf course to decrease irrigation needs and restore the look of the original bunkers
One of Chicago’s best-known clubs launches a multi-stage plan to make it look-and its appeal to its next generation of members-match its legacy.
Park Ridge (Ill.) Country Club, in suburban Chicago, has a long and distinguished history, having just celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2006. But for its first 95 years, the club’s architectural presence was never particularly noteworthy—having been “subject to a lot of poor remodels,” according to Andrew Koglin, Principal of OKW Architects in Chicago, and a member of the club himself.
That left the property looking more like a school compound than an elite country club—a look that certainly didn’t reflect a legacy that includes being the host site for the Women’s PGA Western Open in 1944, which was won by legendary Hall of Fame golfer “Babe” Zaharias.
So in 2001, the 550-member club began fashioning a master plan designed to create an architectural look as classic and inviting as the club’s history, while addressing the needs of the younger and more family-oriented members who wanted to increase their use of the pool and tennis courts. In short, “We needed a product that members wanted,” says the club’s General Manager, Thomas McHugh.
To better manage its renovation without too much day-to-day disruption, Park Ridge’s Board decided to embark on a five-year program of staggered renovations that would minimize interruptions to club life as a whole. OKW was selected to oversee the project, because of its grasp of land planning and its solid experience working on other club projects in the Chicago area.
Good Space for Good Taste
When Park Ridge Country Club embarked on a five-year program of renovations to improve aesthetics for its clubhouse and grounds, the kitchen got a much-needed makeover, too. When Park Ridge (Ill.) Country Club made plans for its $5 million clubhouse renovation, the Board set aside funds for the kitchen, which is not always in the forefront of members’ minds, but always clearly noted by their palates.
“The challenge was to demolish and rebuild it in 12 weeks,” says General Manager Thomas McHugh, who wanted to take the kitchen out of commission during the club’s winter off-season and get it back online by the following spring. And while the upgrades meant working on a building constructed in the 1920s, McHugh says there were very few challenges involved. “We did a good job of investigating [all potential problems] before starting,” he says.
The kitchen was entirely gutted and new plumbing and electrical systems were installed, along with new walls, ceilings, and tile floors. All of the kitchen equipment was upgraded to accommodate today’s more health-oriented eating habits, with more open burners and more grill and broiler space.
“The renovation gave the chef state-of-the-art equipment, as well as space for more staff and for making soups and sauces,” McHugh explains. A cold food preparation area and bake shop were also added, and all of the equipment was designed for mobility and quick disconnects, to allow for easier cleaning and reorganization of the kitchen workspaces if needed.
“The new kitchen also coincided with the hiring of a new chef,” McHugh notes. “And with a new menu and dining rooms, our dining revenues increased 20 percent.”
An additional boost to Park Ridge’s F&B operations came from improvements to the pool area’s snack shop kitchen, which also got new equipment to help it prepare healthier meals like salads and wrap sandwiches, in addition to traditional pool fare like hot dogs and fries. The pool snack shop also offers improved ambience through a new screened-in eating area, as well as al fresco dining.
One Step at a Time
Simultaneously with a renovation to the club’s historic golf course, OKW and Park Ridge turned their attention toward upgrading the pool, tennis, cart storage and caddie facilities, in addition to making improvements in parking and landscaping.
The club’s 40-year-old pool was replaced with a larger one that was re-oriented to the clubhouse’s north side, with larger deck space and more shaded areas. “Now, the majority of [the pool area] is protected from the sun with umbrellas and canopies,” says McHugh.
The pool house, formerly an unattractive concrete block structure, was also upgraded. “We reclad and gutted it,” says Koglin. The new pool house was finished in pre-stained “lap siding,” a fiber/cement product that emulates the look of wood but is virtually maintenance-free.
The same siding was also used for the new tennis pavilion. The goals here were to create more space for receptions, and also to create an area where kids could watch a large-screen TV while their parents were playing. The courts themselves were also relocated to a new, more secluded location, opposite the clubhouse’s south entrance.
Aesthetics Make the Difference
Perhaps the most prominent and most-welcomed changes to the property were the upgrades to the overall appearance of the clubhouse and its grounds. The clubhouse’s architectural style, Koglin admits, is a little hard to define; he calls it “a combination of Neo-Georgian and Venetian.” While that may sound impressive, the truth is the exterior of the building was anything but, after so many years of patchwork remodelings.
To address the multiple challenges that the clubhouse presented, the club focused on a “long-term goal of improving the aesthetics of the south end of the clubhouse, where most visitors arrive [because of its proximity to the pro shop].” To make this entrance more inviting, and also make it more consistent with the building’s western façade, concrete portions of the structure were reclad with panels and columns. “It tied the building together in ways it hadn’t been before,” Koglin says.
As complementary touches, Park Ridge added elaborate landscaping, including a four-sided centennial clock. Now, the al fresco dining area of the clubhouse grill is framed by gracious columns and overlooks a common, circular area filled with flowers and stone pathways. There are also more outdoor spaces for hosting small events and gatherings in the vicinity of the clock. “There’s not another club I know of,” Koglin asserts, “that has as nice a public space off the pro shop and first tee as Park Ridge.”
Renovation of the club’s Heritage Lounge has also made an impact. “They took a very ordinary, parlor-style lounge, built a bar
with stools into it, and put in floor-to-ceiling doors that open onto a renovated porch,” Koglin describes. Located next to the club dining room, the lounge allows members to dine inside or out, while overlooking the first tee and 18th green.
Worth Waiting For
Park Ridge’s members have been pleased with the outcome of the five-year renovation, with “over 80 percent [expressing overall] approval of the renovations,” McHugh reports. Although the club lost 30 members in 2001 as a direct result of the additional assessments for the $5 million renovation, those members had been replaced within three years, and Park Ridge now has a waiting list. In fact, McHugh’s biggest “problem” now, he says, is that “our waiting list is too long; we’re trying to figure out how to get them all in.”
There’s every reason to be confident that there will be even more such activity over the next 100 years. “Not only does the redesign work better,” notes McHugh, “but should we create added services in the future, that’s been factored into the planning.” C&RBresearch