One of Saskatoon’s oldest running clubs is about to undergo a major transformation.
Originally established as a gentleman’s club in 1907, the Saskatoon Club is in the preliminary stages of a major expansion and renovation project to its century old downtown building located on 21st Street East.
“Our strategic planning has always led us back that we need to stay at this location because its part of our history,” general manager Darren Toews said.”It’s probably one of the best locations in terms of what we offer to people.”
Plans for the proposed $6-million dollar project include a major expansion to the rear of the building and the west side toward Hudson’s.
Toews said the expansion would address a space issue in the club. Kitchen facilities would be improved by expanding the back of the building, adding modern washrooms on the main floor and creating additional ballroom and meeting space for members.
“Our kitchen is pretty stressed. We need more space to maintain the quality of food and service to our members,” Toews said.
“We find we don’t typically have enough space to accommodate all the request we get from members. The hope is we can expand the space to the extent where we don’t have to turn away request by members.”
The building has undergone a number of changes since it was built in 1911. The last major expansion was completed in 1980.
Toews said the club has has evolved over the years from its early days of men drinking brandy and smoking cigars after work.
In 1989 the club changed their bylaw to allow women to join and today their 585 person membership boasts 75 females.
Toews said the renovation is an opportunity to draw attention to the club, adding the publicity may help change people’s perceptions.
“One of the… intangibles we hope to achieve by maintaining this product is sort of lose the stigma of the ‘old boys club’. I think some people still have it. Like I said, we’re not like that anymore.”
“One of the… intangibles we hope to achieve by maintaining this product is sort of lose the stigma of the ‘old boys club’.”- Darren Toews, general manager of Saskatoon Club
Toews said becoming more welcoming to all sorts of people, including women has been part of the planning process for this project.
“Part of the shortcomings of the club it wasn’t constructed for dual gender use. We want to make sure we have far better washrooms. That may be a small part of making it more welcoming to both men and women.”
While the social aspect is a big reason why people join, Toews said the club is more than that.
“It’s a place for Saskatoon’s business community to meet and share ideas and even make deals from time to time, he said pointing to photos on the wall of past club presidents who helped build and shape the city.
“We make sure we engage members on things that they find valuable. Look at a place like Regina for example had a club the Assiniboia Club, but they couldn’t maintain the relevance and engagement for members to stay around,” Toews said.
The project would be financed though a combination of loans, gifts, membership dues and bank financing. There is no timeline to begin construction.