Los Angeles Times

Members' dues for clubhouse would increase

Newport Beach Country Club members will be facing a membership increase, but the extra money won't all be going to the proposed golf clubhouse renovation.

According to David Wooten, president and chief executive of both the club and Balboa Bay Club & Resort, the required funds will be secured from two different sources.

"[The renovation] would be paid partially internally and partially funded by loans," Wooten said. "Dues would increase like they always have, but we're not expecting those to pay for a new clubhouse."

The Newport Beach City Council will consider two separate proposals for a new golf clubhouse for Newport Beach Country Club at its January 24 meeting.

If the council sides with NBCC Inc.'s golf clubhouse plan, an amendment to the city's general plan would need to be made, Kim Brandt, the city's community development director said. The current maximum square footage for the golf clubhouse is 35,000.

The Planning Commission has recommended NBCC Inc.'s golf clubhouse plan, and Golf Realty Fund's proposal for the tennis club, the bungalows and the single-family homes, said Brandt.

Even though planning commissioners recommended NBCC Inc.'s golf clubhouse, planning commissioner Robert Hawkins said in an e-mail that the City Council could consider and recommend Golf Realty Fund's plan for a new clubhouse.

NBCC's current property owner, Robert O Hill with Golf Realty Fund, seeks a remodeled 35,000 square-foot golf clubhouse as part of a larger renovation project that includes a new tennis clubhouse, 27 hotel units [a.k.a. bungalows], five single-family homes, and a spa and fitness center. Golf Realty Fund's proposal calls for the removal of 17 of the tennis club's current 24 courts.

The other proposal is from NBCC Inc., and seeks a 56,000 square-foot clubhouse. The exact square footage would be 54,819 feet with the parking lot and maintenance facility making up the rest, according to a city staff report presented to planning commissioners at their Nov. 17 meeting. The staff report is available on the city's website.

The earliest construction would start is March 2013. Wooten said construction would commence following that year's Toshiba Classic to have as minimal an impact on the annual tournament.

Parking a sticking point

Both proposals call for a parking lot redesign. NBCC Inc.'s plan maintains a paved access road that currently runs parallel to East Coast Highway and connects the country club to Armstrong Garden Center. O Hill's plan eliminates the access road.

Leland Stearns, architect for the Golf Realty Fund project, wrote in a November 9 memo that the Golf Realty Fund parking lot layout would work with NBCC Inc.'s clubhouse plan. Stearns added that Golf Realty Fund's parking lot is a "better aesthetic and pedestrian solution" than NBCC Inc.'s plan. The memo was in response to comments from Doug Lee, architect for NBCC Inc.'s project.

Parking lanes in Golf Realty Fund's plan run parallel to the clubhouse compared to NBCC Inc.'s plan, which call for lanes perpendicular to the clubhouse.

The frontage road to Armstrong would be reduced to 15 feet wide and only one-way, for east-bound traffic, according to a city staff report to the Planning Commission dated November 17.

In minutes taken from the Planning Commission's November 17 meeting, Ian Hydoski, Armstrong's vice president for operations, said that 60 percent of customers use the frontage road to exit back to Coast Highway because they feel safer exiting at a stop light, such as the one at the entrance to the country club.

Staff issued two separate reports: one for Golf Realty Fund and one for NBCC Inc. The report says a berm along East Coast Highway would increase to 4 feet. The report also says the reduced width of the frontage road allows an added 10 feet between the frontage road and parking lot.

In the report, it states the "reconstruction and modernization of the clubhouse will enable NBCC to retain its reputation as a world-class sporting venue."

Banquet facility also an issue

The expanded clubhouse would have more room for guests during banquets, which Wooten said is a key need.

Wooten pointed out the banquet facility used to accommodate players in Monday tournaments and member functions throughout the year warrants an upgrade. According to Wooten, the club only has room to accommodate three or four more tournaments throughout the year.

"We frequently have to sit people outside," Wooten said of the current layout. For a banquet for 250 guests, one-third of those may sit outside with current conditions, he said.

"Two hundred-fifty is not that big for a clubhouse," Wooten said.

However, O Hill objects to what he calls a "public banquet facility" of the NBCC Inc. plan.

"We're supportive of any banquet facility geared to the members or outside tournaments," O Hill said. "Their plan calls for a public, commercial banquet facility with ballrooms that resemble a hotel. This would conflict with the [bungalows] and affect the experience of the guest. There would be more traffic and more noise."

O Hill said if the frontage road stays, then the entry way to the bungalows "would not be as attractive."

With the NBCC Inc. plan, members can expect a larger locker room and a workout facility, said Wooten, who is confident in the design. The fitness center would cover 7,490 square feet while the tennis club would maintain its current 3,725 square footage.

"Our plan is based on extensive consultation with Mr. [Perry] Dickey," Wooten said. Dickey is president of Newport Beach Country Club and former general manager of TPC Valencia.

Staff said in its report on NBCC Inc.'s proposal that there woud be no increase in "residential development or morning or afternoon traffic because the golf course remains the same" size.

Dee Devaney has been a member at Newport Beach Country Club for nearly 25 years. He visits the club on average four days a week and also volunteers on the driving range during the Toshiba Classic, the annual Champions Tour golf tournament held each March. Devaney prefers the design style of NBCC Inc.'s plan.

"It looks quite unique," Devaney said. "The dining facilities would make it so you would want to go there. This new dining room has an ocean view and would likely attract more members. It's something they would be proud of. The city and members deserve a classy building in a highly-visible location."

But Devaney understands that dues may increase with the new clubhouse.

"They can't spend all that money and not get it back," he said.

BRYCE ALDERTON is the golf writer for the Daily Pilot. He can be reached at balderto78@yahoo.com.

Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times