Fire-destroyed clubhouse at Santa Rosa's Fountaingrove Golf to be rebuilt with family-oriented focus

The Tubbs Fire that swept through the Fountaingrove Golf and Country Club in Santa Rosa on Oct. 9, 2017, at 1:30 a.m. destroyed the 30-year old clubhouse, the pro shop, golf cart barn, maintenance buildings, gate house and also damaged the restroom on the first nine-holes of the golf course – sparing only the Athletic Center.

Now management and members are planning to transform the clubhouse into what they describe will be welcoming and comfortable place for all ages in keeping with today's trend toward family-oriented clubs blending golf and athletics.

'This is a collaborative effort involving ideas for the future from our board, staff and 1,000 members based on feedback from a survey asking them what can we do to improve the club now that we have the chance,' said COO Ron Banaszak.

'The new clubhouse will feature a clean, contemporary look and feel. It will have an entirely new design and we're making it better than before.'

The night of the fire some 250 members and nine employees lost homes. One week after evacuation orders were lifted, and while National Guard and police barricades were still in place, club managers worked with Santa Rosa authorities and The Salvation Army to establish an official Comfort Center within the surviving Athletic Center.

It became a place where those displaced could feel safe, have access to rest rooms and showers, brush their teeth, take meals and find a respite amid the chaos and anxiety around them – while also enjoying the warmth, hugs and love from staff and friends. A Google-sponsored food truck came in, and therapists were on had to offer massages.

Banaszak said, 'Thankfully, just before the fire, we completed a new five-year strategic master plan for the club, so we did not have to start from scratch, just update and tweak it a little.'

He said the club's first three post-fire priorities were member engagement, retention of its 120 employees and hiring the right architect to create the design. BAR Architects of San Francisco was selected and new renderings were drafted to incorporate proposed changes. Artist elevation concepts were displayed on Sept. 11 at a town hall meeting.

The club lost 25 percent of its members due to the fire. Now the club is experiencing record-breaking growth up 15 percent over prior highs. In addition, golf course memberships usually increase by 10 to 20 annually, this year 40 signed up, and there are 60 new Athletic Club members.

'While many individuals are willing to travel longer, often up to 10 to 20 miles or more to play on a golf course, a majority of family members prefer athletic clubs within about five miles from home. The Fountaingrove Club supports both group's needs and requirements.'

On Nov. 1, 2017, the Athletic Center reopened with members doubling attendance figures almost daily. Yoga, fitness and group exercise classes were the first to restart. Many volunteered to help on member cleanup day, including the club's golf course crew.

The club sponsored town hall meetings, and focus groups among members to gather input for what they would like to see included in the 2018-2022 master plan, as well as to update everyone on progress.

To show evidence of anticipated changes, the club's name was changed to The Fountaingrove Club and a new logo was created to unite everyone in the transformation process with the slogan 'We Are One Club, One Community.' Ongoing town halls are planned every quarter to keep everyone in the loop. By the first of December management had input from members on the new direction.

'Our board stepped up to provide strong leadership from the start,' according to Mark Leavitt, past president past president and board liaison to the steering committee and architect on the building design.

'The golf greens were a priority and two 500-gallon water trucks were brought in. Within two days all of the fairways were irrigated using hydrants on site to refill tanks. Without this immediate watering effort, it would have taken six months for the golf course to recover. As a result, we were able to reopen on January 18th.'

The former clubhouse occupied 24,000 square feet of space and was constructed using a lot of wood. The new design is only 20,000 square feet, since administrative offices will be relocated to the Athletic Center. The large indoor banquet room with seating for 200 was eliminated in favor of expanding the patio for outdoor events, and hall space was reduced allowing for more usable space. The objective is to eliminate wasted space, areas not used, and concentrate on enhancing functionality for core requirements.

The cost to rebuild the clubhouse is estimated at between $14 and $15 million, not including contents and other structures destroyed by fire. A few years ago, the club's valuation was updated. Some $20.3 million will come from the club's commercial policy settlement with EPIC Insurance Brokers and Consultants.

Jeff Goodwin with BAR Architects said the design goal for the new building is to create a cost-effective, sustainable clubhouse of the future as a communal gathering place with outdoor space conceived as a seamless extension of indoor activities, while maximizing the use of built areas.

'We're planning to use fire resistant materials such as concrete, stone, stucco, steel beam infrastructure, a steel pan deck along with metal studs, while optimizing day lighting with clerestory windows and skylights utilizing a lot of glass -- but barely any wood at all. Emphasis will be placed on the use of natural ventilation. The position of the new clubhouse on the land will be rotated 5 to 10 degrees to enhance Southwest views of the valley, the fairways and two knolls on the horizon. Exterior sprinklers will support irrigation and fire suppression. A hardscape barrier will surround the clubhouse providing additional protection.'

Goodwin said the design team and club management are rethinking the way members use space throughout the day, and wants the new clubhouse to be family friendly by anticipating where flex spaces can be located. The large outdoor patio will have water features and fire pits where people can congregate. The hardscape area will be available for dining. A small lake bordering the patio will be enhanced.

The building's glass window doors facing the valley will be able to roll back for large gatherings, dinners and special events. A wood fire oven on a trailer can be moved to the patio for BBQs and pizza bakes. Another fire hydrant will be added near the building.

Fire dampers will be installed in ducts managed by a central control system that can automatically shut to prevent smoke circulation. Fire sprinklers will be located under overhanging roof eaves as well as inside.

Tony Simmons, president of Nordby Construction Company, the general contractor for the clubhouse project, established the timeline through the proposed completion in December 2020.

'We have been in the design review submittal period since mid-October 2018 and hope to receive planning approvals in December. Construction should start in September of 2019 if all goes as scheduled. We are still in the conceptual design stage. Next comes detailed schematic development. We would like to get the necessary permits by next spring or summer.'

Ron Luftsco Jr., principal and founder of Luftsco Associates of San Francisco, is designing the exterior landscape features around the new clubhouse.

The Athletic Center will also receive a makeover to add more space and resources for group exercise, updated exercise facilities and improved stretching areas. There will be an area for Pilates classes, a 1,200 square foot yoga and group exercise area as part of a 3,000-square foot fitness center expansion. Twenty-five spin cycles will be added for a group experience and a variety of wellness programs are planned.

This building is also home for a staffed, and well-appointed daycare center with a large outdoor play yard for member's children while they workout.

A seasonal food and beverage outlet is in the works for the Athletic Center. An outdoor kitchen – previously serving as a temporary summer food area -- is used to prepare food for Friday socials from 4 to 6 p.m. and throughout the weekend. The Athletic Center is open from 5:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily.

Also proposed are rooms where young people could play video and more active games, scale climbing walls, play mini-golf or just hang out.

The refurbished golf course will have all new bunkers, and use capillary concrete for better drainage. Sixty-six new lithium-powered golf carts with GPS have already been purchased. A unique food and beverage delivery service -- airlifted by drones to those on the fairways -- is also in the plan. New lights have been placed around tennis courts.

A 161kW solar energy system provided by SolarCraft of Novato has been completed on the Athletic Center building roof that includes 446 solar panels producing 230,940 kWh annually, offsetting 70 percent of yearly electricity usage. Plans are also in motion to replace the 3,600 square foot solar pool heating system installed by SolarCraft in 2005 and destroyed in the fire.

'We're excited about building the club of the future with input from experts and our members that embraces today's lifestyle. The new clubhouse will provide beautiful spaces for communal assemblies connecting fellow members, encourage small and intimate gatherings and create a spirit of community for all who enter,' said Banaszak.

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