Coral Casino Renovation Nears Completion

The pool is as glorious as ever, one meter longer than a full-sized Olympic pool (so that official meets could never take place in it). Originally a salt-water pool, it now fulfills the ancient duty of offering a complete workout for members and Biltmore guests with the energy and ability to traverse its length in laps.

A small but inviting bar at the southwest side serves up signature drinks where the rickety ocean-side workout area once reigned. Tables, chairs, and coral-colored umbrellas set on sand-colored Italian Travertine interspersed with palm trees beckon; on the other side, chaise lounges prevail, all protected from the sea by low-reflectivity laminated glass walls. Nearly all the cabanas are once again open, occupied mostly by individuals and families whose forebears were wise enough to have joined the Coral Casino Beach and Cabana Club sometime over the last 70 years.

“Wise” because the price of membership has gone up considerably since the $65-million renovation began. A membership will now cost $150,000 or $250,000 (depending upon which package one chooses). Which is, curiously enough, on par and slightly below the cost of comparable clubs. As a club member, one does not actually own any part of the club, just the privileges that come with it. Additionally, if one should have a desire to give up membership, fully 90% of that initiation fee is refundable.

“We’re selling a way of life, not just membership into a club,” says Greg Rice, Vice President of Development, Ty Warner Hotels & Resorts, “the best of Santa Barbara’s lifestyle,” he stresses. Four Seasons has signed on to manage both the Coral Casino and Montecito Country Club.

The pool re-opened last August after a 15-month construction based upon “yacht club” designs by New York architect Peter Marino began. The complete Phase One do-over added workout rooms, refurbished locker rooms with heavy-duty chrome fixtures, teak benches, rainfall showerheads, and a color scheme of different shades of coral, a new pool filtration system, new spa, and children’s wading pool.

Phase Two was supposed to have been finished this spring, and most has been: a members’ lounge, “special occasion” dining room, renovated banquet facility, new pool deck, restored clock tower, wireless computer feeds, new elevator and other improvements. What isn’t quite ready is the once-controversial second-floor restaurant; estimates are that it will open in September. When it does, it will be spectacular. If one arrives by elevator or via the spiral staircase in the lighthouse tower, one is greeted by walls and doors of see-through glass, allowing for sightlines clear out to the Channel Islands. If one is sitting outside with its Indonesian hard wood deck, to the south, 180-degree ocean views take in everything from the Santa Barbara Harbor to the Rincon; looking north, behind and up, Montecito Peak and the San Rafael Mountains beckon. The dining room will be for the exclusive use of Biltmore guests and Coral Casino members.

The Coral Casino ballroom has been complete remodeled, although readers may be unhappy to learn that the five support beams that often obstruct views remain. The good news is that everything is more open, the glass windows that envelop the sea have been replaced, new coral-colored carpeting, lighting, electric, insulation, sound, heating and cooling systems are in place and a genuine cooking facility will allow for more efficient catering services for special events. The entire building has been retrofitted to seismic standards.

The Price of Membership

There are a limited number of memberships available at either the “Connoisseur” level ($250,000) or the “Signature” level ($150,000). A Connoisseur Club package buys membership into both the Montecito Country Club and Coral Casino. It also offers access and special privileges at Ty Warner’s Four Seasons Hotels in Montecito and New York, San Ysidro Ranch, and at his Las Ventanas Resort in Los Cabos, Mexico. Members can golf any day of the week at Montecito Country Club, Sandpiper, or Rancho San Marcos for no extra green fee and membership includes a free foursome once a month at each club. A Signature membership offers the same privileges, but a member is confined to either Coral Casino (monthly dues, $400) or Montecito Country Club ($700 monthly). The $250,000 initiation fee is 90% refundable, and monthly dues are $1,100.

For out-of-towners, the network of restaurants, and an instant plug into the Santa Barbara-Montecito social community that might have taken years to develop should have great appeal. Additional benefits may include a travel club: “Three thousand members give us a lot of buying power, whether it’s chartering a jet or whatever,” Rice points out.

Upcoming Changes for Montecito Country Club

“The idea,” says Andrew Firestone, Director of Memberships for Ty Warner Hotels & Resorts, “was how to maximize the space that we have currently without changing the structure or the footprint of the building.” The first thing they studied was how to improve the fitness area. He says they have learned from both the Biltmore and the Coral Casino that a good fitness area was a big demand of current and prospective members. Plans call for creating one where the golf pro shop is now.

Proposed improvements (plans have neither been submitted nor approved) include updating locker rooms, adding a whirlpool and a plunge pool (indoor/outdoor) for the women’s area, in addition to a private walled area outside. Warner’s team proposes raising the ceilings in both locker areas, and to add more lockers in the men’s lounge, in addition to a sauna, steam room, plunge pool and whirlpool. They hope to move the bar/grill to make room, and suggest a generous use of glass “to open it all up with more light and a feeling of space.” The ground-level dining room’s windows may be raised by 18 inches and squared off to offer better visibility. When it is all finished, promises Andrew, “You’ll exercise with the views; you’ll eat with the views.”

Plans call for the clubhouse itself to be reached via a new driveway that will veer off towards the ocean and away from the golf course as one drives up Summit, “so there’ll be more of an idea of the spectacular location,” Andrew says. Currently, those views are hidden by hedges and parked cars. The Jack Nicklaus-proposed changes that include moving a number of tee boxes (#’s 1 and 10 specifically) and creation of a new par-3 hole over a creek towards a waterfall on the golf course, are still in place. The tennis courts will be moved, the pool enhanced, and the old wooden structure that is used to store golf carts (and once housed the indoor badminton court) will be replaced with an underground storage building. Plans call for replacing all visible fencing around the pool area with non-reflective see-through glass (like the Coral Casino) for both protection from the wind and to offer unobstructed views.

Everything that Ty Warner has done locally so far – virtually all of it in Montecito – has been of the highest quality, so there is every expectation these improvements will be of the same or even higher caliber.

Welcome to the New Montecito.