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Palm Beach County Country Clubs
Add Amenities To Woo Baby Boomer

By Paola Iuspa-Abbott, South Florida Sun-Sentinel
Posted February 26 2007

West Boca -- Boca West Country Club wants to add a 60,000-square-foot spa, featuring 12 manicure stations, 15 massage rooms and six shampoo and chemical treatment quarters. In addition, the fitness center would double in size and a restaurant pavilion would be expanded to seat 412 members and guests.

IIn 1995, Boca West built a 50,000-square-foot fitness center and spa, but by today's standards the building is inadequate. Boca West hopes the $32.4-million expansion will be a big attraction. Boca West country club officials say the renovation is crucial to maintaining home values in the lushly landscaped, gated community.

Country clubs such as Boca West are facing a harsh reality: Either they modernize their amenities or Baby Boomers, the next wave of buyers, may skip them when shopping around for a home and a more health-conscious lifestyle in South Florida, country club consultant Richard Day said.

Some country clubs west of Boca Raton and Delray Beach are planning their next move.

Boca Lago is selling part of its golf course to help pay for a complete renovation of its almost 30-year-old gym and card rooms. Addison Preserve is spending $8 million to redo its fitness center and build a full-service spa.

Country clubs are getting ready for many of the 75 million Baby Boomers expected to pick South Florida as their retirement or part-time destination for the next two decades, said Dorothy Bucksbaum, chairwoman of the Boca West Country Club Board.

"If you wait another few years to do this, then you are behind because it takes a long time to get the work completed," she said, referring to the Boca West expansion.

Country clubs often refresh their looks every 10 years to incorporate industry trends and stay competitive, said Day, who owns the Hospitality Resource Group International in Maryland and has clients in Palm Beach County.

Modern fitness centers and spas are in demand, he said.

"Now it is the time," said Day.

Boca West does not plan to assess its 3,100 members to pay for the renovation, Bucksbaum said. The board would borrow up to $18 million to partially pay for the work if members approve it March 22, she said. Future memberships would also help pay for the work.

Boca West homeowners pay $70,000 to join the country club, which gives them access to golf courses and social events. Some Boca West members said the proposed upgrades are extravagant and fear the cost of maintaining the larger amenities will escalate. The existing restaurant seats 282 people and the spa has 12 stations.

"We are going to have to pay for it down the line, and our dues are going to go up," said member Marvin Kane, who pays $11,454 in dues annually. His dues could go up by about $500 in 2009 to help pay for the operating cost of the expanded country club, according to projections by the country club board. He said his dues have already gone up. Three years ago, he was paying $9,656, he said.

Addison Reserve country club member Claude Champagne didn't mind paying a special assessment to make the fitness center and the spa bigger and better, he said.

The improvement won't increase the value of his home directly but will keep the community desirable, said Champagne, who pays $12,000 in annual dues. Homeowners pay $60,500 to join the Addison Preserve Country Club, he said.

As a real estate broker, he is eagerly waiting for Baby Boomers to start landing in South Florida.

"It is a big market coming down," he said.

That's all Boca Lago Country Club President Seymour Krinsky and General Manager John McCurdy III talk about these days.

"That is exactly what we are counting on, and they will start arriving this year," McCurdy said, referring to the first Baby Boomers who turned 60 last year.

"We need to give them something to buy: nice golf courses, tennis courts ... Our fitness center is so obsolete. We are ashamed of it," Krinsky said.

McCurdy and Krinksy are betting on the sale of about 25 acres of golf course land in Boca Lago to raise money to update the country club's amenities. Boca Lago Country Club's membership is shrinking and the dues are not enough to pay for improvements, Krinksy said. His country club started with 1,200 members in 1979, but the membership dwindled to 900, he said.

Boca Lago has 1,696 homes and is more affordable than Boca West and Addison Reserve but still fighting for a share of the future market.

Lang Realty broker Scott Agran said at least four other country clubs west of Boca Raton and Delray Beach are being refurbished or were recently renovated, including Woodfield Country Club, St. Andrew's Country Club, Polo Club of Boca Raton and Boca Grove Plantation.

Rejuvenating country clubs is often a big-ticket item; but members trust they will recoup the investment when they sell their home.

"There hasn't been many renovation projects defeated," Agran said. "There is always some opposition from fixed-income residents, but more often than not, projects are approved."

---Paola Iuspa-Abbott can be reached at piuspa@sun-sentinel.com or 561-243-6631

 

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