Midtown Raleigh News

Consolidation to unite clubs

A 1997 photo shows a waiter preparing tables in the main dinning room of the Capital City Club in downtown Raleigh.
A 1997 photo shows a waiter preparing tables in the main dinning room of the Capital City Club in downtown Raleigh. 1997 News & Observer file photo

Downtown Raleigh’s Capital City, Cardinal clubs to consolidate at one location

The Downtown Clubs of Raleigh, which has been operating exclusive clubs in two of the Triangle’s tallest buildings just a few blocks apart, plans to consolidate its operations and close the venerable Capital City Club.

The business plans to invest about $2 million to expand and renovate the current Cardinal Club, which is on the 28th and 29th floors of the Wells Fargo Capitol Center along Fayetteville Street, General Manager Karl Swink said.

“The bottom line on this is: We’re going to put a lot of money into this,” Swink said. “We’re going to make a spectacular club.”

The renovation and expansion of the Cardinal Club is expected to be completed in June. Until then, both clubs will continue to operate.

The name for the refurbished Cardinal Club hasn’t yet been chosen.

“We haven’t settled on names yet for anything,” Swink said. “The first step, obviously, was choosing a location.”

In 2009 the Capital City and Cardinal clubs, both of which are owned by Dallas-based ClubCorp, pooled their memberships and essentially began operating as a single club in two locations. Dinner is served only at the Capital City Club, and breakfast is served only at the Cardinal Club; both locations serve lunch.

“We’re stretching out the benefits and services of one club over two properties as it is right now,” Swink said. “So this is going to allow us to focus all our energies on one location, which will be a lot more efficient. It will be a better experience for everyone involved.”

Membership declines

The 2009 move was driven by the need to streamline costs in the wake of a decline of about 500 members in the prior two years, leaving the clubs with roughly 3,000 members. That decline has continued, with membership today totaling more than 2,100.

“The recession has been really tough on the private club business,” Swink said. ClubCorp owns or operates more than 150 private clubs, including country clubs and alumni clubs.

Swink declined to disclose membership fees. “Somebody can contact the membership department if they’re interested,” he said.

Both clubs offer expansive views of Raleigh and have long catered to business executives and politicians. Swank said that choosing where to consolidate was “a very difficult choice.”

“We have had a very long-standing relationship with both landlords, and both clubs have a very proud tradition,” he said.

Room to expand

Space was the decisive factor. The Capital City Club at 410 S. Wilmington St. has about 17,000 square feet and can’t be expanded, Swink said. But the operations at the Cardinal Club are being expanded about 2,000 square feet to 23,000 square foot, and there’s room for future expansion as well, Swink said.

“We are investing all this money so we can once again grow the business,” he said.

Downtown Clubs also noted in a message that went out to members Thursday that 65 percent of the meals at the two locations are served at the Cardinal Club.

Shelia H. Ogle, chair of the Capital City Club’s board of governors, called the plan “a very, very positive move for both clubs. … Our members are going to have an experience like they have never had before.”

She said that she has piled up a lot of memories at the 34-year-old Capital City Club, but is looking forward to what the renovated Cardinal Club location will offer.

The expansion of the Cardinal Club will include a new bar and casual dining area overlooking Fayetteville Street, additional private dining rooms, and smaller “touchdown rooms” that provide meeting spaces for members.

The touchdown rooms enable members “to use the club as an office away from the office,” Swink said.