A More Functional Floor Plan

With additional banquet-room space, a reconfigured kitchen and fresh finishes, the newly remodeled banquet and dining room at the Bonnie Brook Golf Course wins rave reviews on both sides of the dining room.

When it opened, Char Piquette, now-retired food and beverage manager for the facility, declared it “absolutely gorgeous. The end result is beyond our wildest dreams.”

The Waukegan Park District in Illinois owns and operates the clubhouse, which was built in 1987. Although some renovation was done nearly a decade ago, the more recent project exceeds all expectations.

The transformation began as a plan simply to redecorate and freshen up the banquet facility and lobby. Following a feasibility study, PHN Architects of Wheaton, Ill., and its consultant determined that if the space were renovated–and functionality improved–the district’s bottom line would follow suit.

The Problems

The former banquet room seated approximately 150 people, in an awkward “L” shape that meant obstructed sightlines and a disconnected atmosphere. One leg was used as a restaurant, while the other operated as a banquet facility, says PHN Principal Doug Holzrichter, who led the Bonnie Brook project. When the spaces were combined, the situation was far from ideal. “Depending on where you sat, you couldn’t see everyone. It didn’t feel like one space,” he explains.

“The facility just didn’t work well,” he adds. Beyond the poorly configured space, which led to under-utilization, the kitchen’s design also was inefficient. A large, two-sided fireplace in the middle of the room–though beautiful and well-loved–negatively impacted the layout and functionality. And while bland decor didn’t help, storage needs ate up precious space, causing problems beyond aesthetics.

Not only was the available banquet space poorly designed, but it also was too small for many weddings and other large parties. “We were missing the mark for many of the weddings,” says Waukegan Park District Executive Director Greg Petry.

The Solutions

“We gutted the kitchen, lobby and banquet facility, and started over,” says Holzrichter. “We put in a new kitchen and a new elevator, and all new finishes and interior decorating.”

The extensive work did not require altering the building’s footprint, however. Instead, rearranging space and eliminating underperforming areas allowed for the creation of a vastly more functional clubhouse and banquet facility. The only exterior change was enclosing an interior staircase and attaching it to the outside of the building.

The new banquet area can seat 250 to 275 people–a sweet spot for weddings and other banquets–and can be divided for separate gatherings of up to 120 and 140. A full bank of windows on one side offers panoramic views of the golf course. Bonnie Brook now also includes a “pre-function area,” a space with bar service that permits banquet-goers to mix and mingle before entering the banquet room.

“The kitchen was redesigned to create a far more functional setup, with additional prep space and better flow,” says Michael Steele, who took over as food and beverage manager.

With a new elevator, the facility is fully accessible. That same elevator also permits convenient access to basement storage space, eliminating the need for storage on the first floor.

And the front lobby has been substantially dressed up, with wainscoting, wood beams, new lighting and new interior finishes.

District officials believe the project’s cost–around $965,000–will be absorbed by increased demand for banquet bookings and revenues.

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