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FEATURE STORY
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The center of attention

The iconic members-only Center Club received a $3.1 million makeover to attract a new wave of younger, more casual professionals. Will they see more lattes and tweeting?

by Steve ChurmPublished: October 01, 2012

In the shadow of the Segerstrom Center for the Arts, a new chapter in the history of one of Orange County’s most iconic business clubs is unfolding.
   
Dallas-based ClubCorp is spending $3.1 million to “reinvent” the tony Center Club and bring the private Costa Mesa venue into the 21st century. The objective is to lure younger business professionals and executives to join while retaining 
its base of longtime members, many of whom have belonged since it opened in 1987.
   
ClubCorp, owners and operators of more than 150 private clubs and resorts, is updating multiple properties – like the Costa Mesa location – throughout the country in response to declines in the number of members and the changing lifestyles of today’s emerging executives. Exclusive clubs with cavernous formal dining rooms and the atmosphere of an Ivy League library is as attractive to the next generation of movers and shakers as land lines for telephones.
   
It’s all about being more casual and mobile for younger professionals, says Sean Laney, ClubCorp’s senior vice president. Studies by the firm found that today’s business executive is more technology savvy and is just as likely to do business or socialize over a latte, glass of wine or football game than during a traditional meal. The Center Club, like other ClubCorp business clubs in San Diego, Orlando, Atlanta and the Silicon Valley, is responding by literally and figuratively tearing down walls to expand and reconfigure its footprint with the goal of generating more frequent visits by club members.
   
“We want to change our members’ mindsets from using the club only for a special-occasion dinner or business meeting to coming here weekly, or even two or three times a week, for coffee with a barrista, or breakfast, or even during the day to do work in a different setting,” says Shahin Vosough, the Center Club’s general manager. “It’s much more about coming and being comfortable enough to hang out.”
   
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