Florida Yacht Club Gets Creative To Stay Viable

Sarasota Yacht Club, which serves both yachting and social members, has undertaken several initiatives to remain viable into the future. Those initiatives include a recent refinancing, new programming and efforts to appeal to Sarasota’s changing demographics.
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Sarasota Yacht Club, which serves both yachting and social members, has undertaken several initiatives to remain viable into the future. Those initiatives include a recent refinancing, new programming and efforts to appeal to Sarasota’s changing demographics.

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“The club industry is changing and it’s more important than ever to be both relevant and in tune with members and community needs,” says Bernhard G. Kloppenburg, the club’s general manager. “We’re maximizing our resources and experienced executive staff to provide our members with access to classes, events and programs that are second to none bin the industry, ensuring that the club becomes part of the fabric of their day-to-day lives.”

Kloppenburg points out that private yacht clubs across the nation are facing tighter budgets and seeing their memberships decline. Research by the Sports and Leisure Research Group found that over the past two years, 81 percent of clubs stayed stagnant or lost members and that 35 percent of private club members in the United States worry about the financial viability of the club they belong to.

Sarasota Yacht Club, on the other hand, enjoys an enviable financial condition and has recently refinanced the credit facility from the construction of the new clubhouse, a $12.5 million transaction that will save the Club in excess of $1.6 million in interest expenses over the next five years. It is also part of a small percentage of clubs that have grown over the past year.

“Contrary to what is happening nationwide, Sarasota Yacht Club has seen growth on a month-to-month basis at more than 100 percent of what we saw last year,” says Dana Soldati, director of sales and membership. “Over the past nine months, we have welcomed more than 100 new members of all ages and we’ve just announced a new corporate membership program to extend our reach to Sarasota-area businesses.”

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Now approaching the two-year anniversary of a significant renovation, the club has focused on utilizing its new facilities to appeal to changing area demographics and create innovative programming for members and community events. Families have been drawn to the club because of the options for involvement and varied membership plans. New programs include cooking classes held out on the water, a water sports course, a youth sailing program, fishing clubs, a water aerobics class, wine dinners and a concert series, which have heightened the club’s appeal to non-traditional markets.

“Sarasota Yacht Club is at the forefront of professional club management, anticipating change and adapting as necessary,” says Commodore Willa Saalwaechter. “We have embraced the evolution of the industry and made a concerted effort to cater to the needs of members of all ages.”

For more information, visit sarasotayachtclub.org

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