The Rancho Santa Fe Association board approved a new “sponsored member” category for the RSF Tennis Club, allowing non-residents to join as playing partners for members and pay a premium for the privilege of playing in the Covenant club.
At the Association’s Feb. 5 meeting, RSF Tennis Club President Dave Van Den Berg said he hopes the new category will help membership bloom even more at the club, which has rallied from a low point of 189 members to 230 members as of last week.
RSF Association Vice President Craig McAllister said that such an accomplishment in boosting membership should not be overlooked. He said 14 years ago, the club had a membership of 340 that steadily dropped as the years passed.
“This is a turnaround that we haven’t seen in 14 years — that’s phenomenal,” McAllister said.
Van Den Berg said some of the growth could be attributed to expanded membership categories that the Association approved in December 2014, which include golf club memberships, reinstatements, extended family memberships and social memberships.
“We are really the most excited about making this a true asset to the community that will attract people to move here,” Van Den Berg said. “We are turning this club into an active, vibrant club.”
The new sponsored member category would allow a regular member in good standing to sponsor a non-resident member as a Tennis Club member. The member must be approved by the Tennis Club board, and if approved, would pay an enrollment fee and $1,000 extra in dues a year. The category would be limited to 25 members and the membership would be for only a one-year term with the possibility of being renewed.
The new membership targets a problem inherent to many tennis clubs, where there might not be an adequate player base of similar skill levels. Unlike golf, where players of different skill levels can play together, Van Den Berg said tennis is most enjoyable when players are evenly matched.
“The No. 1 reason people join a tennis club and the No. 1 reason they quit is that they don’t have someone to play with,” said Van Den Berg. “I’m on a mission to not only increase the membership, but increase a certain kind of members.”
RSF Association board member Heather Slosar took the most persuading to approve the new category, worrying that it set a precedent: What if the golf club came in next month and asked for the same type of membership?
“If we start allowing outsiders into our Covenant amenities, we’re going to start watering down our brand,” Slosar said.
RSF Association board member Rochelle Putnam said she initially was against the proposal as well, but said essentially these are playing partners — sponsored guests that Covenant members are responsible for. Rather than paying $5 in guest fees, they are on the hook for monthly dues.
Van Den Berg also expressed his excitement that the RSF Tennis Club was recently named the 2014 Outstanding Facility of the Year by the U.S. Professional Tennis Association, San Diego Division.
“It’s an unbelievable achievement, and a very prestigious award that is the culmination of a lot of hard work by our board,” Van Den Berg said.
The RSF Tennis Club’s junior tennis program is a particular source of pride, as it boasts 18 players in the top 40 in the country and five of the top players in the world. There are more than 60 youths in the middle school tennis program partnership between the Tennis Club and the Rancho Santa Fe School District, and Saturday men’s tennis groups are swinging, having climbed from eight to 26 players.
Van Den Berg said he aims to build the club up to 349 members. It has been hard work, but he is starting to see results.
“It’s like dragging a bag full of concrete blocks through the mud … I work at this every day. I know what our potential is,” Van Den Berg said. “I hope it gets so busy and filled with kids and activities. I want the Tennis Club to be a place where people come and have a great time.”