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Membership down at MI private clubs

After years of waiting lists, the Island’s private athletic and social clubs have opened up. It is a bonus, and just in time for the peak outdoor recreation season, the opportunity to use first-class courts and club facilities may be easier than ever before.

Due in part to the tough economy, some private clubs in the area, which previously had waiting lists, are hosting membership drives, offering exclusive recreation opportunities to people on the Island.

The Mercerwood Shore Club, one of the clubs seeking new members, is even offering a special to entice possible members. Joy King, the office manager at the Shore Club, said that prior to the recession, the club generally had a waiting list of about 20 people at any time, but since the economy took a turn for the worse, the club’s waiting list quickly dropped. Now the Shore Club, which was built in the 1930s, has approximately 35 openings.

“With the recession, I’m not surprised,” said King. “It’s affected our membership.”

To encourage people to join, the club is offering a special for anyone who pays the initiation fee in full. Under the “Summer’s on Us” promotion, new members would not have to pay monthly dues for the months of June, July and August. For people who want to join, but may not be able to pay the fee all at once because things are tight, King said those parties can pay a certain amount down and then make monthly payments with no finance charge. The current initiation fee is $4,800.

King said the club’s programs have not been affected.

The Mercer Island Country Club is also hosting a membership drive. The club has had a waiting list in previous years, but is currently accepting membership applications. The membership fee for a limited time has been reduced to $3,500, according to the club’s Web site. A swim and fitness membership at the club has also been reduced to $2,000.

The Mercer Island Beach Club currently has a waiting list of approximately 50 families, general manager Travis Roach said. The club cap is 500 families.

“We’ve been very fortunate,” he said. Roach added that part of the success this year, despite the economy, may be from this year’s theme, “A Year of Fun, Mercer Island Style,” which has been a big hit with families. Roach said another possibility is that people are traveling less, so staying close to home and doing activities has become popular.

The Beach Club, which was also built in the 1930s by a Seattle chapter of the Lions Club, was remodeled several years ago, Roach said, expanding to a year-round facility, and has since offered more fitness classes and other opportunities for members.

“We’ve had great feedback,” he said. “The fitness center is used each year more and more.” He said the club is constantly looking for new offerings for members, especially now as they continue to add and update fitness programs. When the club first opened for Island residents, the initiation fee was $100 and yearly dues were $10 per family.

Another long-standing Island summer tradition, the Beach Club swim team, is also thriving in hard times.

The Beach Club’s new member initiation fee is $6,200, with a non-refundable $250 waiting list deposit.

The Mercer Island Country Club can be reached at 232-5600, the Mercerwood Shore Club can be contacted at 232-1622 and the Mercer Island Beach Club at 232-3125.

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