Inside the Dayton Racquet Club: towering venue ‘squashing’ misconceptions, drawing new members

On the 29th floor of the city’s tallest building, the Dayton Racquet Club is thriving despite at least two misconceptions.

The first: it is primarily a place to play squash (only one of two original racquet courts remain).

The second: the club is for stuffy, old dudes who live in suits and ties.

Kevin Round, general manager of the private club located on the highest floor of Kettering Tower at 40 N. Main St., said the truth is that the Racquet Club has a diverse membership roster as well as amenities and activities that appeal to a range of tastes - wine dinners, charity balls, golf outings, seafood buffets, etc.

“It is accessible and it is affordable,” Round said. “The perception is that it is expensive and exclusive.”

While several well-established Dayton area executives, politicians and business leaders are counted among the club’s 1,100 members (spouses are counted on the same membership), the club has taken steps in recent years to attract younger members, including those who are early in their careers.

“It is really connecting leaders in the community, current and future,” Round said of the club.

Round noted that downtown residents, theater-goers and those in the arts community are attracted to the club.

Labeled a sports and business club by parent company ClubCorp., Racquet Club partnered with the young professionals organization Generation Dayton in 2011 to offer reduced prices for those under age 30 and age 40.

The discount has since been offered to other area groups. The basic membership, including all-access to the club’s bar restaurant and 28th floor exercise facility, normally starts at $144 a month.

A full membership is $60 a month for those younger than age 30 and $90 for those younger than age 40.

Full disclosure, my husband recently purchased an after 4 p.m. restaurant and bar membership for $52.

Membership director Lori Luebben said the price structure is an attempt to attract new members.

“We needed to create a way to get young executives up here,” she said, noting that membership rolls have increased since the partnership with Generation Dayton began.

The club’s 29 Stories Lounge completed in 2011 addresses members request for a more causal setting to take clients and for after work socializing and networking.

Such a bar has been suggested since shortly after the club — the brainchild of Virginia Kettering — opened in 1971.

“It was her dream to have a ‘Pine Club’ on the top of the tower,” Luebben said. The Dayton Racquet club has 16 year remaining on its lease with current Kettering Tower owner Tower Partners LLC.

While the club’s dining room remains more formal — no shorts allowed — the lounge is more laid back and had a special bar menu.

One of the clubs two squash courts was transformed into the bar overlooking downtown bar. Wood from the court was used to give the bar top its unique look.

Luebben said dining is a key element to the club. In addition to special events, the club’s wine lockers and use of free meeting spaces and the recently renovated Patterson Ball Room, members have access to a $5 breakfast buffet as well as lunch and dinners, depending on their memberships.

Lunch items range from a Spinach Salad for $11 to a Lobster Mac-N-Cheese for $20. On a recent visit, I tried the DRC meat loaf, which comes with mashed potatoes, haricots vert (green beans) and port mushroom demi-glace.

Dinner ranges from the vegetable kebab - marinated mushroom, cherry tomato, onion and pepper skewers with herbed basmati rice and grilled asparagus- for $18 to the Filet Mignon served with white truffle mashed potatoes and asparagus for $42.

Menus change seasonally and Executive Chef Jack Skilliter said he strives to serve club favorites, cater to new dietary needs and keep the menu interesting, fresh and current.

Recent specials have included all you can eat chicken wings for March Madness, braised short ribs and bouillabaisse (a seafood soup).

Beef liver and onion was the lunch special on my recent visit.

Skilliter said the club’s members are a priority and he wants everything to be to their liking.

“We really want to make sure people know this is their club,” he said.

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