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Paying for the Horizon project

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  • #57833

    Posted on behalf of a member who contacted the Horizon Project Management Group by email.

    I respectfully write to the management working group of the Horizon Project to share some ideas and suggestions. My perspective and knowledge of the Club dates back to September 14th 1971 when my wife and I joined the Club 50 years ago. We now have 11 paying members in the family and visit frequently. I am just one person and one voice with hundreds and maybe more having different ideas.

    My suggestions were presented to the main committee when the West Wing fiasco was being discussed. I call it a fiasco because we wasted (in retrospect) £2.5m on advisory fees for what was a terrible plan, in my opinion. Luckily, it was defeated. All we need, in my opinion, is:

    1. To have a second pool where the 4 squash courts are, connected to the main pool, all on the same level. The Squash courts are in a self-contained building and with suitable skylights, all of this can be done for around a couple of million (subject to drawings and a quote).

    2. Now that the Club has finally decided to limit outside events, I think the East Wing is fine as is. We do not need skylights or bigger windows in the Quad or Napier rooms – we just need better lighting and to put the tables where the French doors are, with one room as a multi-functional space that can be used for lectures and other events.

    My suggestions are based on the old saying: Don’t fix it if it isn’t broken. I am worried that our advisors are again getting carried away. The prices indicated are:

    Moderate Comprehensive
    East £3-3.5m £11.5-12.5m
    West £11.5-12.5m £19-20m
    TOTAL £14.5-16m £30.5-32.5m

    My questions and concerns are:

    1. How much have we spent to date on fees and what is our total commitment in fees, in the event that all of this is voted down again?
    2. Have any of the projects been committed to? If not, when will we get a chance to vote? Will the vote be put to the full membership, as the previous West Wing project?
    3. Can the Horizon Committee consider putting to the members three options, along with timeframe and loss of use of the Club for each of the below plans:

    1. Something simpler, less expensive solution can be presented, eg. max. £5m, along the lines I am suggesting?
    2. The “moderate plan” for £14.5-16m
    3. The “comprehensive plan” for £30.5-32.5m
    4. How much money do we have in the bank and what would the impact be on member subscriptions? For example, can the Club afford up to £30m and is there really a need to spend this money now, rather than keep it for future developments like possibly enlarging the gym or a new tennis pavilion?

    My proposals probably range £2-5m, subject to drawings and estimates, compared to your moderate costs of £14.5-16m or comprehensive £30.5-32.5m. In all honesty, I cannot see the benefit of spending up to £30m+ and disrupting the whole Club, when the second pool can be built without inconveniencing anyone too much.

    We are grateful to be members of such a wonderful Club and thank everyone on this committee and others for their hard work. I would just like to have some answers to these questions so members can reflect on the recent fiasco and not end up repeating it.

    I hope you will accept these comments in the constructive spirit in which they are intended. I would be happy to meet with the committee in person if you so desire.

    #57834

    Response posted on behalf of Richard Rawlinson, Chairman of the Finance Committee and sponsor of the Horizon Project.

    Answers to your questions are as follows:

    1. How much have we spent to date on fees and what is our total commitment in fees, in the event that all of this is voted down again?

    The budget is £250k and £200k will be spend by the end of this calendar year; the other £50k is essentially committed. TRA are £82k, there are then landscapers, cost consultants etc that go along with that; costs for Rosie who is helping with the communications and management of the programme are another big chunk, and then there are smaller amounts for the several surveys, the videos etc. This is what was authorised by Main Committee and so far, we are on budget

    2. Have any of the projects been committed to? If not, when will we get a chance to vote? Will the vote be put to the full membership, as the previous West Wing project?

    Nothing has been committed to. There will be a comprehensive survey of all members (as there was with the West Wing) that we now expect to run in November. Based on that, we hope that Main Committee can identify a recommended trajectory and that will go to Voting Members for approval or not in 2022. Then, each major project within that will be subject to separate justification and members’ vote, as and when we come to it, and after it has been designed.

    3. Can the Horizon Committee consider putting to the members three options, along with timeframe and loss of use of the Club for each of the below plans:

    1. Something simpler, less expensive solution can be presented, eg. max. £5m, along the lines I am suggesting?
    2. The “moderate plan” for £14.5-16m
    3. The “comprehensive plan” for £30.5-32.5m

    There will be a low cost plan that allows us to stay within existing resources. That low cost plan does not include a pool, however. The resources available would go to the tennis pavilion, cricket pavilion, winter tennis bubble and all the renovations we need to do. There would not be additional money for a second pool and, for sports, that is a lower priority than the pavilions which are in such bad shape, and the tennis bubble, which address a top need and is not very expensive.

    4. How much money do we have in the bank and what would the impact be on member subscriptions? For example, can the Club afford up to £30m and is there really a need to spend this money now, rather than keep it for future developments like possibly enlarging the gym or a new tennis pavilion?

    As of today, £18.6 million in liquid assets (bank deposits and ETFs). But more to the point, we have £11 million spendable from reserves, once you allow for the normal run down of cash during the year and the need to hold c£3 million in prudential reserve.

    All the programmes would be implemented over 10-15 years and during that time we accumulate some more money – especially if subscriptions increase. Assuming that the Off-Peak to Full Member conversion does go through (which adds nearly £5 million to spendable cash from their entrance fees), then we estimate that about 5% on average subscriptions would make a big contribution, and to implement comprehensive solutions to all the various issues would mean about 10% on average subscriptions and a period of up to 15 years to execute – or at least, to pay for it (we could readily borrow some money to decouple the building timing from the time to pay for it). That does assume we can and do run member catering at operating breakeven and that we continue with a reduced but still significant events business. On the other hand, if the proposed changes to our subscription and entrance fee discount structure go though, the increase in full subs would be 4-5% less than these increases I just mentioned, which are in average subscriptions (if the discounts are changed, other subs go up more than the full sub).

    #57835

    Posted in reply to Richard Rawlinson’s points

    I have a very simple suggestion, which I hope you and your colleagues will consider: There are a great number of possible improvements. Of course, you asked the members so you know what they are. Some examples were:

    1. Enlarge the gym
    2. Improve the tennis pavilion
    3. Improve the croquet pavilion
    4. Build translucent bubbles over the outdoor courts
    5. Put a bubble over the outdoor pool so it can be used from Nov – Mar, when it is very cold and expensive to heat
    6. Build a second indoor pool where the 4 squash courts are.

    What I suggest is for each of these items, and others, you present to the membership:

    1. Purpose of the improvement
    2. A sketch of how it is now and how you propose to change it
    3. Any potential legal planning issues
    4. The estimated cost
    5. The estimated timing
    6. Interruption to some other nearby activities
    7. Any other relevant info

    In other words, I presume that with the £250,000 in your Horizon budget, you have drawings, legal issues, cost and engineering feasibility on all of these improvements, project by project. Once the membership can see it, we would then have a factual basis on which to make a decision. Like an a la carte menu.

    As is, I have no idea why the so-called “moderate” plan which Horizon estimates at a total of £14.5-16m you cannot include a second covered pool where the two squash courts are, which should cost very little. You should have such data, which would greatly relieve the pressure on the existing indoor pool.

    I think the simpler and clearer you make it, the easier it will be for the membership to understand what each one costs, allowing them to vote democratically.

    #57836

    Response posted on behalf of Richard Rawlinson, Chairman of the Finance Committee and sponsor of the Horizon Project.

    Proposal 1 below is the North Wing proposal(s), covered in the Horizon materials and especially the sports-specific presentation and meetings.

    Proposal 2 In some form, the tennis pavilion will be progressed to the stage of member approval, independently of decisions about the major Horizon proposals; something can be done within existing resources. The survey will ask briefly about it but full design will come later. A relevant short question will be included in the survey.

    Proposal 3, The envisaged new cricket pavilion might or might not include croquet; if it does not, croquet would probably continue to be accommodated in the East Wing. Work on the cricket pavilion is being progressed; that will come to members with a developed design if it meets the major projects criteria

    Proposal 4. The proposal is not necessarily for a translucent bubble but for a winter bubble; the exact feasibility of what we can create is constrained by the site and that issue already being worked on; again, it would come to members if it become a major project otherwise would be decided by Main. Again, a short question will be included in the survey.

    Proposal 5 Bubble over the outdoor pool. This was not popular in the consultations by swimming and fitness; that committee did not support it so, it is not being pursued. The belief is that many swimmers like the outdoor nature of the pool and will use it in the winter without a cover. Experience this winter will test that.

    Proposal 6 2nd indoor pool. That is an option under the moderate West Wing option as well as the comprehensive option. The decision to include a 2nd pool vs. other things will be decided at a later stage, when and if we come to the design of the West Wing.

    Sadly, it is not a correct assumption that the £250,000 in the Horizon budget, covers drawings, legal issues, cost and engineering feasibility on all of these improvements, project by project. It covers the work for the master plan and associated planning and costing work, plus the additional communications and survey costs, but not individual building design costs as you hope it would. Remember, the work on the West Wing cost over £2 million for one building – and in the master plan we cover the whole site! Of course, you are talking about a stage 1 or 2 design and not finished drawings, but nevertheless, the costs would be significant and we are keeping the Horizon budget to £250k – a good part of which is going on communications, not design.

    Our intent at this stage is get clear definition of what we want in each building and whether members support solving particular problems for the related estimated costs – not to get approvals for a specific design. That comes later, and so do the design costs, after we know what we want. Our current illustrative floor plans are helpful to some, but far from ideal – illustrative not definitive, and floor plans not elevations.

    Of course, other approaches might have been possible, with different costs, and different people might do it differently, but this is the approach that has been decided upon and it has been heavily influenced by the experience of the West Wing project – where two major issues were (i) the lack of consideration of other solutions, outside the West Wing, to identified issues; and (ii) the lack of definition upfront, before expensive design work was carried out, on exactly what facilities were needed, to address exactly which problems.

    Before construction on major projects is commenced, of course members will be able to review much more info, and specific designs, before they approve it. Minor projects, on the other hand – which some of those you cite may be – will go ahead on a different democratic principle – that the elected Main Committee will decide, based on the best information on members’ needs and all the technical and financial factors that apply.

    You have been clear that you do not support the major projects that have been identified, and your list reflects that. That opinion may be widely shared; we will find out in the survey, and if it is, your list is a perfectly plausible list of projects (save only the cover on the outdoor pool which was there earlier, but has been taken out of the list now being considered). However, minimal work on the East Wing would I think imply some reversal of thinking on the East Wing compared to that implied by the recent Member Resolution.

    #57854

    You have posted anonymously but as you have been a member for so long with eleven family members we may know each other anyway.

    Clearly you have put a lot of thought into your comments, queries and suggestions. Well done. A club can only thrive if it has members who get involved and take an interest in the way it is run.

    When Martin Bishop and I were preparing our Resolution for the AGM we hoped we were creating one that benefitted as wide a proportion of the membership as we could.

    The Resolution was much influenced by the survey when Members were asked what they liked least about their club.

    http://www.tonygamble.uk/Horizon/Dislikes.jpg

    In order of priority it was:-

    Food, Other members, Rules, East Wing.

    Food (and beverage) have been a source of disappointment for the thirty years I have been a member. It has had its ups and downs but never has it been reliably good and something to be proud of for long.

    There is a thread on this forum started by Robert O’Dowd who has just joined the Main Committee. He says “I have to beg to disagree that the F&B has got better in last 12 months. It has in my view a long long way to go. Quality, providence, service, embracing healthy cooking and ingredients, food profiles for time of day, example brunch, is very poor compared to almost every eatery within a mile of the Club”. If you read the twenty four messages you will see he is not alone in his thoughts.

    “Other members” was an unanticipated dislike. It seems that this is essentially a generational problem. Some older members find younger ones irritating. Some younger members find older ones intolerant. But this is not a ‘problem’ peculiar to Hurlingham and such attitudes are hard to change. At the club the only solution is to provide more space so young or old, rumbustious or quiet, can be separate if that is what they prefer.

    “Rules” is something we did not seek to address in our Resolution.

    Turning the “East Wing” into an area liked and used by members seemed the least expensive and least disrupting way of reducing the first two problems.

    In your opening post you say “I think the East Wing is fine as is. We do not need skylights or bigger windows in the Quad or Napier rooms – we just need better lighting and to put the tables where the French doors are, with one room as a multi-functional space that can be used for lectures and other events.”

    Certainly most of the members I talk to don’t think it is fine as it is. I was surprised to find a family of eleven who do.

    At the AGM we showed some visuals of how it could be made more attractive and comfortable.

    http://www.tonygamble.uk/EastWingRefurb/index.html

    Would your family not prefer The East Wing to be more like this than as it is?

    These changes would come at a cost but they could be phased over as many years as finances permit. As the area becomes more appealing Members will migrate there to socialise and pursue activities and interests. As more people use the space on a daily basis it could, in time, become the heart of the Club where members come to meet family and friends – something the Polo Bar, Café and Dining Room never have been because they are too separated and too small. The Club doesn’t have a heart which is why it hardly feels like a club.

    You offer your list:-
    1. Enlarge the gym
    2. Improve the tennis pavilion
    3. Improve the croquet pavilion
    4. Build translucent bubbles over the outdoor courts
    5. Put a bubble over the outdoor pool so it can be used from Nov – Mar, when it is very cold and expensive to heat
    6. Build a second indoor pool where the 4 squash courts are.

    All of these are interesting ideas but they do not tackle the main dislikes expressed in the survey of Members which are food, other members and the East Wing.

    We could do all six of your suggestions but we would will still have a membership complaining about the things that they dislike the most. Are you convinced this is the right way forward for Horizon?

    Tony

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