A couple of weeks ago, the clubhouse was an enormous hole, roughly square, being readied for construction. Then the foundation was poured in the second week of April. If all goes well - and why shouldn't it? - the shell of the building will be complete before the end of September. Well before then, the National Center staff hope to get official permission to resume play on the lawns - for members, for the public, and for major events scheduled for fall.
Moved in and reconnected
As with all the technical systems installed at the new Center while the staff is in temporary quarters in the Utility Building, the phone system is designed with the clubhouse in mind. It can be expanded to as many as 30 lines, when needed. It has all the features necessary to serve the multiple activities of the clubhouse - including the USCA and CFA staff, the restaurant, the National Croquet Club, and the Pro Shop.
The contacts for the USCA, CFA, and the National Croquet Center staff are:
Main phone line - 561-487-2300
Utility Building is temporary headquarters
The 40' x 100' Utility Building was the first major structure completed on the site. It was built to serve many purposes, some temporary, others permanent. The USCA staff of four occupies a corner space roughly comparable in size to the old offices at Palm Beach Polo, while the National Center staff is housed in another corner. A third corner has been built out with restrooms and a catering preparation area. Several storerooms have been enclosed along the western wall. All of those uses take up less than half the area of the sizeable building. The remaining open space is used for equipment storage, repair, carpentry and other work to support the ongoing building of the Center.
The croquet event of the century
Although the lawns will undoubtedly open for play before winter and various parts of the clubhouse may very well open in 2001 before the entire structure is finished, the opening celebration will not take place until early February, 2002, in a 14-day "mega-event."
Croquet Festival II has been scheduled for February 10-17, 2002. The National Croquet Center is negotiating with the World Croquet Federation for the Golf Croquet World Championship to precede the Festival (February 4-10) and overlap its opening day with a finals spectacle for several hundred spectators covered prominently by the press. During this period, dedication ceremonies for the lawns and building spaces of the clubhouse will be held, along with elaborate social events and entertainments.
The full-service opening of the world's largest dedicated croquet facility is, in itself, newsworthy. Combine that with the Center's promotional emphasis on Golf Croquet, and the February event becomes, potentially, a public "relaunch" of the sport. The focus of the media and the public will be on Golf Croquet - a game that can be learned, understood, and appreciated on short exposure. Egyptian-style hitting power should lend a dramatic edge to press and television coverage of the Golf Croquet World Championship finals, and the message will be very clear: "Take a second look: Croquet is not at all what you thought it was."
The concentration of these events in one 14-day period should constitute just about the biggest croquet bash in the history of the sport. As one croquet historian put it succinctly, "In the 19th Century there was Wimbledon, in the 20th, it was Hurlingham; now it's the National Croquet Center."
Major donors and new dedications spur project
Wealthy members of the croquet establishment are realizing that the National Center will be much more than a great place to play croquet. One of them is Pat Supper of Palm Beach. She created a sensation on Opening Day of the Croquet Festival in January with her donation of $375,000 to the clubhouse building fund. The gift dedicates the entire second floor of the clubhouse to the Patricia and Frederick Supper Foundation, comprising the offices of the USCA and the Foundation, the national archives, and a museum that will double as a meeting room and banquet hall.
Pat Supper has said she is especially interested in bringing more young people into the sport. The USCA's Youth Development program for high schools and colleges is designed to do just that, using the National Center lawns as a showcase venue for major competitions and summer coaching programs for young people.
Another major donation honors the memory of the first president of the Croquet Foundation of America, Jack McMillin. His dedication plaque will go on the East Veranda overlooking the center courts, thanks to another president of the Foundation and a long-time friend of McMillin - Ellery McClatchy.
With their substantial gifts, these pillars of American croquet, among others, are buying into the founding vision of CFA president Chuck Steuber. Steuber has steadfastly maintained that the chief purpose of the National Croquet Center is to dramatically expand the play of the sport in America, as measured in USCA club and individual memberships.
National Croquet Club memberships restructured
Past and current memberships in all categories have been realigned consistent with the new projections for completion of the National Croquet Center. The Charter Memberships were designed to begin in December 2000 and extend throughout the year 2001. Charter members were entitled to playing privileges at the Center beginning December 2 and ending February 9, when the lawns were closed. The new annual membership will begin on November 1, 2001, and all the current and new memberships will be extended through the end of October 2002.
Memberships in what will surely be America's premiere resort-class croquet club are only one way to support the completion of the most expensive croquet project ever undertaken. Your tax-deductible contribution - or that of your club, your corporation, or your foundation - can help to shape the future of our sport. Send your check, payable to the Croquet Foundation of America, to:
[National Croquet Center photos by Bob Alman.]
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