A Great Deal on the Horizon...
April 1, 2015: April is kind of a month of anticipation around EYC. Some folks are still getting boats ready for the season. Regattas are about to start and Race Committee is busy giving refresher courses on managing a race and other helpful courses. There is Easter with its wonderful Brunch and Easter Egg hunt for the kids, but April is kind of a quiet month.
This relative quiet affords me the opportunity to discuss longer-range stuff. In fact, let's start with the results of the Long-Range Planning Committee survey. Ed Michels will have a report in this issue of the VFB that I encourage you to read. Remember, this was the result of extensive interviews done back in 2012 while we were in the trailers. Some of the goals or aspirations expressed in it raise questions in my mind as to how we achieve them in our current composition as a Club.
If I think of Eastport Yacht Club as having a business model I would compare it with two other Clubs and what their "model" represents.
- On one end of the spectrum would be our neighbors at Severn Sailing Association (SSA). This is a facility with minimal overhead but excellent sailing facilities. Their membership is composed mostly of dedicated sailors with racing being their main focus. They have limited amenities, no bar and a limited snack bar. But it works for them. Their limited scope and mission makes them attractive to the dedicated small sailboat racer.
- On the other end of the spectrum is the Annapolis Yacht Club (AYC). They have over two thousand voting members and offer everything from racing facilities, a competitive Junior Sailing program, large marina facilities, and extensive amenities in a well-appointed Clubhouse with a large management staff. They cover nearly all aspects of what can be expected from an established Yacht Club. Their initiation fees are higher than ours but their annual dues cost to members is nearly the same as ours. They are able to do this because costs are spread across many more members.
- EYC occupies what I would characterize as the "middle ground" as a Yacht Club business model. We offer racing facilities and opportunities, but our Yacht Yard is not as well equipped for racers as SSA or AYC. We have very nice Club amenities in terms of bar, restaurant and management capabilities but we are about at our limit as to what amenities we can offer. At a cap of 600 members, the balance sheet really can't pay for anything else.
It's kind of a nice place to be. It's what I used to refer to as the "Goldilocks Club". Not too hard (SSA), not too soft (AYC), "just right". True, we're bigger than the 200-person Club that moved into the first Clubhouse back in 1990 and we have allowed our membership to creep up to a Voting Member cap of 600, but in the scheme of things we are a relatively small Club. Judging by the results of the Long-Term Plan, this is the way most members like it. It is nice but... is it sustainable?
The reason I ask is that we are trying to recruit younger families with children or about to have children to re-invigorate our Club. If this were 1980, we would not need to do anything to make ourselves attractive to this demographic. But it is 2015 and what this group expects has changed with the times.
To be competitive, we need to increase boat access for those without boats. We probably need facilities for a dedicated Junior Sailing facility. And, dare I say it; we probably need some kind of swimming facility in the future.
Why do I say we may need these things? Well, some of it is what members suggested in the Long-Range Plan. Some of it is what you hear at associations of Club managers and in magazines that cater to our kind of Club. We have to grapple with the fact that, for the first time in our existence, we are probably competing with for at least some of the same kind of members that AYC is trying to attain – young families.
That is all fine, but how do we afford any of this? We are working to pay down our debt and fund contingent reserve accounts. This will continue. We squeeze as much income as we can from food and beverage while keeping the Club a value for our members. We try and balance banquet income (weddings, etc.) with keeping the Club open for us, the members.
No, the only way I can see we can ever afford an expansion of what we offer is to increase our member cap. There, I said it. You may begin throwing stones.