Thursday, September 21, 2017 Dear Fellow
It has been more than a week now since Hurricane Irma disrupted so many lives across the entire state of Florida. For our beloved Club and Community at Ocean Reef, there was significant damage to our landscaping along with some of our buildings and assets as a result of the tremendous storm surge. But what Irma did not dampen – was the strength and Spiritof our Members and Associates. After all, this is a place we ALL call home.
I’ve been on-site since Day 4 Post Irma, working and communicating with your Board of Directors and Club Management team, as we continue to assess the conditions and operational capabilities of the Club.
The Club is hard at work on the enormous task at hand. Cleaning, repairing and preparing areas affected by the storm as quickly as possible. From protection of our valuable assets from further damage, such as our golf courses and Inn rooms, to drying out buildings, and in some cases, initiating more extended recovery projects. We have made and continue to make significant progress.
I am happy to report, in the wake of Hurricane Irma, that many of the areas so critical to the Ocean Reef Club experience, we now know will be ready for you to enjoy. We are aware that you need to continue making plans for the “season”. We also recognize that the season is defined differently for each and every Member, so it is even more important that we share our overall expectations for what the calendar looks like this year. We expect the social calendar to really begin with the Thanksgiving holiday and continue on throughout the year.
Things that we know are operational now or will be very shortly … The Tennis & Games Center with its tennis and pickleball courts, card and game rooms. In fact, Jim Morton got me out on the tennis courts yesterday to hit some balls. It felt great! Driving by the croquet lawn – it’s a gorgeous, perfect green and its tiki hut covered patio is still standing, ready to welcome players. Our Marina…miraculously… virtually untouched. A gorgeous sight to behold.
The Member Fitness Center, Spa and Salon are already set to open on Monday and will maintain regular summer hours. Gianni, Raw Bar, Burgee Bar, Reef Treats, Reef Hut – all either open beginning this weekend, or will be soon. And, our Clubhouse Prime has a phenomenal new Chef. The Club has sourced the finest, best steaks you will ever taste. Much more to come on that… Continue to check the daily Irma Update for the latest news on not only Club facilities and activities, but to the many treasured entities on The Reef such as the Medical Center, Art League, Cultural Center, etc.
A major effort is currently underway to ensure Buccaneer Island – the pools, Beach Grill, Beach Bar – are all operational as soon as possible. There may even be a few new surprises out there to anticipate. Though at the time of this writing, we can’t begin to say when we’ll see the first swimmer, work on the new Fitness Pool continues.
At this stage, it is difficult for us to specify an exact timeframe to return our most damaged areas to our Ocean Reef Club standards for use by you and your guests. Our Dolphin and Hammock courses are undergoing tree and debris cleanup as well as the removal of saltwater intrusion to our turf grass. We are cautiously optimistic that both courses will make a full recovery. It is too early to predict when the two courses will be open for play. We’ll continue to update you on the conditions over the next few weeks.
The Ocean Room and Islander also suffered saltwater intrusion. The full implication is not fully understood at this time and continues to be examined. What we do know is that our Senior VP of Food and Beverage, along with his team, are going to work their magic and create new dining venues and opportunities as may be required. And they’ll be nothing short of exciting and fresh. We all look forward to their creative solutions.
Our Inn rooms are another example of areas we continue to study. We are working to determine the full extent of the damage and explore our options to have them available for our Equity and Social Members, their families and guests. Fortunately, the vast majority of our Vacation Rental homes and Condominiums suffered little to no damage and most will be available for rental in the very near term.
To accomplish all that is on our plate, we need the full attention of the Management teams and the Club Associates. And we need to realize that some fall member events will not happen as planned – at least through the end of November into early December. All of this with the sole purpose of ensuring this new Season delivers the unique and special Ocean Reef experience.
The Club & Community Calendar that was recently mailed highlights the vibrancy of our Membership. It reflects the array of events that happen month after month, year after year. Many of them our cherished, long standing traditions. Our Associates work diligently, creatively, to make each year better than the last. Continually creating opportunities for new memories for all of us, and our families.
We’re also busy with plans for our traditional Thanksgiving events, Holiday Concert, Festival on the Green and New Year’s Eve celebration and fireworks … along with everything else on your schedule for the holidays like the Starlight Beach Buffets, Gingerbread Tea, Cooking School classes and dinners in Carysfort Kitchen. Everything that was scheduled for the holidays will be there. And with a surprise or two along the way. Halloween, while a down-sized version, is on. You’ll hear more on that. I can only imagine the costumes this year…
With all of that said, the fact remains. The destruction that Irma caused to our very special place has required your Board and Management team to make some very difficult – I’ll say painful - but necessary decisions. Difficult in part because a return to normalcy is what we all crave after a disaster. More so because these decisions impact some of our most cherished events and traditions. And it’s made even more painful as we are set to begin the celebration year for two very important anniversaries; 70 years since the founding of the Club, and 25 years of Member ownership.
But, as we are forced to face the realities, and a degree of uncertainty, as to the exact condition of some of our facilities, we must accept that the best use of our resources, and of our Management and Associates, is to be focused on the restoration of the Club long-term. We have no choice. So we’ve made the following necessary adjustments to the calendar:
ORC Member-Guest Golf Invitational, Nov. 8-11, Cancelled
As mentioned earlier, while each day we see improvement in our courses, and the assessment becomes more positive, it is too early to predict their opening.
Canadian Weekend, Nov.16-18, Cancelled
We regret to disappoint our Members from the north but we do not know where we will be with the facilities that support this event.
The Gathering…Equity Welcome Back Party, Nov. 12 Rescheduled for Sunday, Dec. 3rd
For those that remember all those years back, this event, “The Gathering”, was originally when Equity members first came together following Hurricane Andrew. We will once again celebrate the Spirit that is Ocean Reef Club as we continue to rebuild from Hurricane Irma.
Vintage Weekend, November 30 - Dec. 3, Cancelled
Perhaps the greatest impact to the broadest group is the cancellation of Vintage Weekend. This event is loved and appreciated by so many of us – and so encompassing to every venue and department in the Club. As the planning time so critical right now, we could not possibly deliver the weekend the way it has been enjoyed through the years.
The Jimmy Buffett Concert, April 7, Cancelled
Sadly, we will not be able to move forward with the planned Jimmy Buffett Concert this April. Even though the event was scheduled for much later in the year, the time for planning, executing, selling tickets and organizing the extensive details is now. We cannot have this impede our focus on recovery. We still look forward to a celebration in April and will communicate our plans for something everyone will enjoy, later in the season.
We are in the process of updating the November and December calendars with these new dates, and will be mailing you “replacement pages.” So please, don’t throw away your calendars, this disruption is temporary.
There will be more to communicate regarding the condition and operational plans for our facilities in the days and weeks ahead. Most mentioned above. These include the Ocean Room building, Key Largo Building, Yacht Club Room, Islander Restaurant and a large number of our Inn Rooms. We are continuing to assess the level of damage and consider options for repairs and alternative possibilities if repairs would impact the enjoyment for Members during the coming season.
Ocean Reef Club Spiritand determination is real. I see it on the faces of Members as they return to check on their homes. I see it on the pages and pages of emails received showing your concern and support. I hear it in the voices of your Board of Directors. I see it on the faces of our incredible Associates as they deal with their own challenges, yet smile as they serve. And I see it on the face of our President, Mike Leemhuis, and his incredible leadership team. I wish you all could see it for yourselves now. But this community Spiritisn’t going anywhere.
It will all be waiting here for you…welcoming you back home.
Ocean Reef Club Chairman
Thursday, September 21, 2017