New signs, logo
The first impression is the new signage, near the gate to the club’s driveway off Riverside Boulevard and at the main entrance. Those use a new Norfolk Country Club logo that includes a tree, which Gil Russell, club general manager, said was part of a rebranding of the club.
“We’ve had the ‘duck’ logo, which is part of our golf shop. It’s always been there. We’ve used different logos with the ‘NCC’ crests, which was one of the original crests. It’s still a part of our organization and it’s still there,” he said. “It’s just, how can we incorporate a cleaner look that doesn’t change who we are but maybe just cleans it up a little bit.”
Especially at night, the new lighted outdoor sign catches the eyes of those entering and exiting the facility.
“As soon as you pulled into the parking lot, we wanted to make a statement that things have changed,” Russell said.
Fewer walls, new look
For the country club, it also starts with a good first impression when members walk into the remodeled clubhouse building. Although it’s the same building as before, it has a new look.
Several walls that created narrow hallways were removed, giving it an open floor plan. That allowed the dining area to be expanded and the bar area to be moved to a more central location.
One area is equipped with enough TVs to evoke the atmosphere of a casual sports bar, while another section has fewer TVs for a quieter setting. Gerber, past board president, said the changes fit the “contemporary dining” model that members desired.
The country club still has its banquet room, and it refreshed the look of its front desk.
The improvements were not limited to inside the clubhouse.
Behind the building, an outdoor patio area — complete with a fire pit — was added as another gathering space for members and guests.
Russell said that there were no structural issues that necessitated a remodeling, but rather a desire to update the aesthetics of a building that, for the most part, hadn’t changed since a fire in the 1980s.
In 2002, the club moved its bar and dining area to create the “19th Hole” section.
“It became very segmented in how it was used,” Russell said. “At the time, a lot of clubs were that way. Country clubs have evolved so much since the economic downturn (last decade).”
According to the Norfolk Country Club’s website dedicated to its renovation, it has undertaken a $1.75 million project. But it has not spent all of that right now.
The first phase of the project — the $1.25 million renovation of the clubhouse, with Beckenhauer Construction of Norfolk as the general contractor of the design-build project — is nearly complete. In addition, an estimated $200,000 in new equipment was purchased for the golf course.
The next phase of the renovation will be this fall when contractors begin to work on the facility’s swimming pool, which the club has budgeted $300,000 to update.
The club received $444,500 in gifts and sold $560,000 in bonds for $1,004,500 of the project’s total price tag financed by its members before construction started.
“I can’t say enough about how great our membership has been about realizing the city of Norfolk needs this kind of facility and willing to be a part of helping us make it happen,” said Barry Gerber, past board president.
The remainder, roughly $750,000, was acquired through a short-term construction loan with local banks. Both Gerber and Gil Russell, club general manager, said it is expected that the club will pay off the loan as quickly as possible, maybe before the end of the year.
However, not all of that funding will be used immediately, with the pool project planned for later this year. But there was additional deferred maintenance and expenses, such as parking lot lighting and improved kitchen equipment, that were not included in the project budget that ended up being completed as well.
Swimming toward phase two
Up next will be modifications to the swimming pool, but details have yet to be finalized.
“That’s going to be an evolving subject,” Russell said. “It’s kind of a blank slate, really. It’s how can we update it with what we have budgeted.”
As of right now, Russell explained that there likely will be concrete replaced on the pool deck and some of the walls. The pool has a slide and diving board, although Russell left open the possibility that those amenities may be updated or replaced as well.
“That pool has been the same since Day 1,” he said. “It’s just updating the look of it and making it family-friendly for us.”
Joining the 21st century
Cole Williams, who took over as president of the club’s board of directors in May, said many people had a hand in the project.
“It not only made sure the project got done in a timely manner, but to the best of our ability, it seemed everybody got close to what they wanted,” he said. “We were fortunate that everybody wanted the same thing. The best part is that we ended up with a club that is well-equipped for the 21st century.”
There was a reason Williams said the last part.
About a dozen TVs were installed, most in the casual bar area, and all are linked to one sound system. The audio and visual equipment is tied into the same network.
Another example of the technological improvements, Williams said, is wiring inside the banquet room is designed so that the noise coming from a microphone will stay inside the banquet room
“When I say bring it into the 21st century, I don’t mean just the look and feel of it,” he said. “It has the technical capabilities as well.”
No course changes
Russell said there are no changes planned to the golf course itself as part of this revitalization. Instead, there will be a renewed focus on daily course preparations and about $200,000 in updated equipment — new mowers for greens, tee boxes and fairways, for instance.
“All of those things affect the playability of the golf course and putting together a product that we are proud of and our members can enjoy,” Russell said.
That doesn’t exclude future changes such as a new irrigation system. Gerber said that kind of project, however, would require a separate membership vote.
“We would have to put that under a separate financial package, so to speak,” Gerber said.
There could be other possible improvements in the future, such as expanded banquet space, an indoor golf hitting area and updates to the tennis area.
“Those are way off in the distance,” Gerber said. “There are lots of things that are in the pipeline for improving Norfolk Country Club.”