The Kelowna Yacht Club is hoping to sail into more stable financial waters in the year ahead.
With a new executive in place and a new executive director to oversee the downtown clubhouse and marina operations, yacht club Commodore Don McEachern says a new management team combined with being “more sensitized to the financials” bodes well for the club’s immediate future.
“It’s important we now have individuals in place with sufficient background experience to know what to do, and we need to keep our finger on the pulse of what is happening and be prepared to make changes as required,” McEachern said.
The state of those financials generated considerable anger within the yacht club’s 1,700 membership last fall when the past executive revealed the club was facing a projected deficit of $561,638 largely due to operating expense issues related to the Water Street clubhouse on Kelowna’s lakefront.
The firing of the clubhouse manager on Sept. 1 marked the third consecutive person hired for the position who turned out to be not “ideally suited” for the job.
The members’ lounge, intended to be a high-end restaurant, was bleeding red ink due to bad management and a dysfunctionally designed kitchen.
While the new clubhouse was widely celebrated for its unique design and serving as a new landmark fixture for Kelowna’s waterfront, the fiscal reality was operating deficiencies and poor management decisions had depleted the yacht club financial resources to where the threat of falling into receivership was a possibility.
Club members voted to approve a one-time fee assessment of $350 to regular and corporate members and $230 for social members, while other possible financial options were set aside due to their unpopularity with the membership.
McEachern said the yacht club’s hiring of Thom Killingsworth, chair of Tourism Kelowna and previously involved with the 4 Points by Sheraton Kelowna Airport hotel as the new executive director, will help bring hospitality industry experience to address the clubhouse revenue/operating expenses problems.
In a report to the members last fall, McEachern described how the clubhouse lounge had become more costly to operate and maintain than was originally assumed, saying significant capital has been expended in correcting design flaws, defective materials and a very dysfunctional kitchen.
Moving forward, McEachern feels both catering and meeting room space rentals offer potential for the clubhouse to generate more revenue.
“Our clubhouse is in a lovely location with a wonderful ambience, so if we can get the word out that our facilities are available for catering, for weddings or other rental use for local groups, that can go a long way to off-setting our operating expenses,” he said.
McEachern said as a private club, the yacht club is limited on lounge business it can draw from within its own membership. About 1,200 of those members are actually boat owners who either have a marina slip or are on a waiting list.
“We don’t have the ability to draw from an entire community like a restaurant would, so we have try to make up our revenue shortfall in other ways. I think going forward that we’ll place a greater emphasis on catering to address that, ” he said.
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