With a formal groundbreaking ceremony held last month, the $11.5 million design-build expansion of the Ox Ridge Hunt Club in Darien is well underway.
Not only will the end result, expected to be completed by spring 2019, include a new, 18,000-square-foot clubhouse, a dining facility and other amenities, but it will also feature a new name: The Ox Ridge Riding & Racquet Club, reflecting the fact that it’s expanding its sporting options.
“It’s all about finding a more sustainable financial footing for the club,” said Richard Colligan, who was named Ox Ridge president about two years ago. “The key is to have a diversity of facilities and activities for our members, which will provide a broader base of membership and a broader stream of revenues for the club beyond just riding.”
The 104-year-old club was in vital need of updating, Colligan added. Located on a 22-acre sweep of land between Mansfield and Middlesex roads, the club is adding eight singles and doubles squash courts, platform tennis and a fully equipped fitness center with locker room and exercise classes, as well as updated riding facilities.
The latter includes new indoor and outdoor riding rings, respectively measuring 26,000 square feet and 37,000 square feet, as well as a full renovation of its existing 60-horse stable complex with its adjacent 12 grass paddocks.
“It’s more than just a construction project,” Colligan said. “It’s a transformation.”
Since construction began in July, the design-build team of KBE Building Corp. and BL Companies has completed all demolition on the property, including the old indoor and outdoor riding rings, and proceeded with phased footing installation for the new clubhouse. The next phase of construction involves bringing underground utilities onto the property, including electric and plumbing, said KBE President and CEO Mike Kolakowski.
“The design team has been careful to retain some of the feel of the architectural appearance that was already there,” Kolakowski said. “The new club will have the same equestrian feel, even though they’re new buildings.”
The KBE executive opined that the clubhouse — which will include a grillroom and pub — will supply “the real wow factor.”
Colligan said he believes the new club will be the only such facility within an 8- to 10-mile radius.
“Squash is one of the fastest-growing sports in the country, and in particular in this area,” he declared, “but there are no squash courts in Darien at the moment.”
Indeed, Darien Squash — a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to the growth and development of a love for the game among young residents — holds its practices at Chelsea Piers in Stamford.
Colligan said that the decision to go with a design-build approach was made “because it results in a shorter timeline. You have a very clear picture of what the cost will be at the designing level, instead of getting it once it’s already been designed.”
The club president further said that he believes the plethora of offerings at the new facility will help drive membership, which currently stands at around 60. The club envisions building that number to around 250 over the next couple of years.
Not that membership is cheap: an initiation fee can range from $5,000 to $50,000, he said, depending on the level of membership in question. “Founders” and “Full Members” receive unlimited club privileges, an equity interest and a vote on its board. Lesser memberships, aimed at least in part at those not wanting to participate in everything the club has to offer, are also available. Interested parties should contact the club for pricing, he said.