The Yellowstone Country Club at the western edge of Billings is moving forward with an $11.8 million plan to build a new clubhouse, swimming pool, tennis courts and other amenities by 2019.
In a booklet distributed to members, club officials outlined their plan to replace their dated clubhouse, which is behind current building codes, has aged electrical and heating systems and sports signs of deterioration.
“This effort was not driven by the context of what is best for our club today, but rather what is best for the continued long-term success of the club,” wrote board President Fred Gunville and planning committee Chairman Jerry Pearsall in a letter to members.
Greg Kelsey, the club’s general manager, said club members voted to move forward with the plan in late December. Club officials haven’t committed to a specific design and is seeking an architect to design the project, he said.
The project at 3200 Paul Allen Way would be paid for through a 4 percent increase in member dues and additional bank financing. A regular member pays $365 in dues per month. The club also has available vacant land, but selling is not part of the current financing plan, according to club leaders.
Construction of the tennis courts would start first in the fall of 2017, according to the club. Clubhouse work would start in spring 2018 and run for a year.
Work on the pool, which club officials say is the number-two reason new members join besides golf, would be finished by May 2019.
Noting that the clubhouse environment and atmosphere scored low on member surveys, club officials are planning a new clubhouse that will better meet industry trends.
This includes a coffee bar, quick food and beverage service between the front and back, designated member and banquet hall entrances, a member bar and grill, a multi-purpose dining room, a banquet hall and outdoor patio.
“A new clubhouse design will include an adequately sized kitchen that is centrally located on one level among all dining facilities. This will enable our talented staff to improve service efficiencies as well as improve member dining experience,” Gunville and Pearsall wrote.
The country club is a big part of the history of the Yellowstone valley, tracing its origins back to 1914 in the shadow of the Rimrocks.
Originally known as much for its lavish debauchery as for golf, the club changed hands several times in its early years and was even the site of the murder of its one-time owner, a man identified only a Mr. Turner, in 1940.
Members took control of the Yellowstone Country Club in 1948. They began working on selling the old site, and moved to their current location in 1958.
The club has undergone several improvements over the years. Most recently, in 2007, the club spent $1.7 million to replace its underground irrigation system.
Yellowstone Country Club is the latest private, members-only club in Billings to undergo an overhaul to meet changing member demands. A year ago, the Briarwood Golf Club renovated its restaurant and bar, at a cost of hundreds of thousands, to create a more casual atmosphere and attract more diners.
Another private club, the Billings Petroleum Club, completed last fall a half-million dollar renovation of its spot atop the downtown DoubleTree by Hilton. That club was also seeking to attract new members and other customers for banquet-style events.
For the Yellowstone Country Club, the change is needed, wrote Gunville and Pearsall.
“After evaluating feedback of members through the membership survey and multiple informational meetings, we believe that this plan represents the most prudent combination of features, benefits and cost… and the right time to proceed is now,” they wrote.