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Sunday, March 3, 2024

NC trend: An elite coastal beach club preps to become the East Coast’s “finest”

Sounds of ocean waves crashing on the sand of Atlantic Beach can be heard by Coral Bay Club members swimming in the zero-entry pool. Nearby, certified personal trainers lead exercise classes and tennis professionals offer instruction on clay courts. Members dock boatson the Bogue Sound-side of the oceanfront property in Carteret County.

Depending on their tastes, members can enjoy fine dining options inside the Ocean Room, or more casual meals at the Sandbar. Indoor and outdoor bars serve drinks to fit any mood. Year-round social events range from dinner dances to holiday brunches. Fourth of July fireworks are the “most spectacular on the island.”

The exclusive club started in 1958 has a membership of about 625 members from across North Carolina, a power list that over the years has included Raleigh banker Frank Holding Jr., Glen Raven textile titan Allen Gant Jr. and former Sen. Leo Daughtry of Smithfield. Entry requires a referral from a current member.

Now, this coastal playground is preparing to add some shine to its glitz. As happens often at private clubs, the price tag for renovations is causing some members to question the cost.

Officials wouldn’t provide financial details on the renovation plan, but the project is expected to cost about $20 million with an assessment of at least $13,500 per household, according to people familiar with the matter. A membership entails an upfront cost of $33,000 with annual dues of $3,000, they add. That’s less than North Carolina’s elite country clubs, where initiation fees of $80,000-plus and monthly fees of $750 or more are common, as are lengthy waiting lists of potential members. But Coral Bay doesn’t have a golf course to maintain.

“It’s not an upgrade. It’s a scrape and rebuild,” says one longtime club member.” They’re going to demolish 100% of the entire club and build a new club. … I’m not happy about it. I think they’re rushing into it. But they have the power. You either pay it, or you quit.” 

That appears to be a minority view, however. “We have a facility with fabulous members, and we have the opportunity to provide them with the finest club on the East Coast,” another member says. The club’s board is unanimous in its support for the renovation, he adds.

Both members asked that their names not be used. Private clubs prize privacy, after all.

‘GOING TO BE INCREDIBLE’

Atlantic Beach is part of a barrier island with 1,300 year-round residents, connected by a bridge to Morehead City and North Carolina’s mainland. Its charm rests in public beaches and natural beauty, although its location makes it susceptible
to damaging storms. 

Decisions to dress stuff up amid record prices for beach property are commonplace at the coast. Three other beach and country clubs in Carteret County have seen recent upgrades.

The billionaire Wordsworth family of Rocky Mount bought the Crystal Coast Country Club on Bogue Sound after Hurricane Florence in 2018 caused major damage in the area. The new owners made a “massive investment,” according to the club’s website. The oceanfront Dunes Club, established in 1939 and owned by its 425 members, underwent clubhouse renovations four years ago. Across the bridge, the Morehead City Country Club has renovated its golf course and pool in recent years, and is adding a 30,000-square-foot clubhouse.

Coral Bay’s improvements are scheduled to start after summer’s traditional Labor Day ending. Kersting Architecture of Wilmington and Greensboro-based Samet Corp. were hired to lead the clubhouse overhaul. The pool and beach areas will
remain open.

The new building “will be tens of thousands of square feet,” a member says. “It will be completely restructured, which encompasses all the items that would be in a clubhouse, and it will be able to withstand the weather there.”

Previous renovations have never really accommodated the beach environment, he adds. “We have been working for three years to design the best club on the East Coast. It has been incredibly well-received by our membership. 

“If you come to Coral Bay, it’s going to be incredible. Just imagine the finest possible club.”  

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