Located on the North Saskatchewan River Valley in Edmonton, the Royal Glenora Club (RGC) is a world-class, family-oriented athletic and social club; a multi-service, multi-purpose facility established in 1961. You’d be hard pressed to find a local high-level athlete in squash, tennis, skating, gymnastics, or swimming whose story does not cross paths with the Royal Glenora Club—the RGC has a history of a thriving recreation and competitive athletes, fostering athletes that have reached such heights as the Olympics, a testament to the quality and range of its programs and activities. But it’s not all hard work, not at all. Members of the RGC feel like it’s a home away from home, and have found in it a place to relax, exercise, socialize, and unwind.
Business Elite Canada spoke with RGC CEO Julius van Wyk about keeping up the legacy and traditions of the RGC, and how the club has managed to pivot and thrive under a very difficult year for hospitality services.

BEC: Please give the history of the Royal Glenora Club.

JVW: Sixty years ago, the Royal Glenora Club first opened its doors after three of Edmonton’s esteemed sports clubs, the Glenora Skating and Tennis Club, the Braemar Badminton Club, and the Royal Curling Club, ambitiously merged.

The Royal Glenora Club has a long-standing reputation as Edmonton’s premiere athletic and social Club with a desired community network. Centrally located in the capital city, the Club is nestled in the heart of Edmonton’s lush river valley, where we offer the best-in-class recreational programming with some of Canada’s most sought-after sport professionals.

Our impressive facility, which is undergoing an extensive $41M Redevelopment, will boast a sophisticated Members-only dining room, lounge, coffee bar and patio, whimsical event spaces, a state-of-the-art fitness centre, sublime spa-like locker rooms, a refined business centre, a multi-purpose gymnasium and a child-minding area upon its completion to compliment our existing athletic venues.

BEC: Talk about your membership.
JVW: The Royal Glenora Club has connected thousands of Members and their guests together throughout the decades: through the Cold War, Y2K, and even a global pandemic. With memories spanning generations, our member-owned, non-profit Club is a cherished piece of our Members’ lives. From civic leaders to Olympic athletes, heads of corporate businesses to artists, families to presidents of non-profits, and everything in between, this has become a place that our diverse Membership community wants to be a part of for life.

BEC: What services and amenities is the Royal Glenora Club known for?
JVW: The Royal Glenora Club is recognized internationally for our outstanding recreation facilities and sport professionals, having trained numerous Olympic champions, NHL players, and other professional athletes here.

Our banquet facilities are also some of the most sought-after venues in the city, with an unbeatable view of the North Saskatchewan River Valley, which is a serene forest-like setting larger than Central Park in New York. Our newest event space, the Braemar Ballroom, will feature floor-to-ceiling windows showcasing one of the most incredible views our city has to offer. To compliment our stunning ballrooms, our world-class Culinary Team delights our guests with their outstanding menus. By incorporating ethically and sustainably sourced ingredients on our fine dining menus offered in our timeless spaces, we have created the perfect setting for any intimate event or grand reception hosted at the Royal Glenora Club.

BEC: What draws your members to your club besides the tangible services?
JVW: Without a doubt, the intimate and supportive community here is a unique aspect of being a Member. The RGC is a place where memorable encounters become meaningful connections for Members of all ages. Lifelong connections have been created within our convivial community, and the sense of family that exists here is a special bond that is hard to put into words until you have experienced it firsthand.

BEC: How did the club react to the Covid pandemic?
JVW: The RGC has delicately balanced the safety and comfort of all stakeholders throughout the pandemic, taking necessary action to protect the Club from an outbreak of COVID-19. Our Club is our Members’ home away from home, and a space to escape reality, albeit briefly; we have strived to create a place where Members could experience joy and a glimpse of pre-pandemic life inside our four walls.

With mandatory provincial public health restrictions ranging from full closures at one extreme, to only masking at the other end of the spectrum, the Club has had to constantly react to a variety of situations since the start of the pandemic. Even during our province’s most harsh of shutdowns, our Club was able to provide unique offerings to our Members so they still felt connected to our community, despite being prohibited by the government to physically gather at the Club; this entailed options like online fitness classes, virtual sport instruction, cooking tutorials, virtual book clubs, and meal-kits to-go. During some of our less severe provincial orders, we have been able to maintain our full offering of programs while limiting class sizes to ensure proper physical distancing. Recently, a Covid-19 Task Force comprised of RGC Members with medical and legal backgrounds was created; a survey related to the potential of a mandatory vaccination policy indicated that 85.9% of respondents were in favour of requiring a double vaccination to use the Club. After careful evaluation of the Member survey data and with recommendations from the COVID Task Force, the Board of Directors unanimously approved implementing a Vaccination Policy for the Royal Glenora Club. This has enabled the Club to operate in near-typical conditions and provide our Members with a premier experience as close to the pre-pandemic norm that we have seen in the last 18 months.

BEC: Now coming out of the pandemic, how is the club welcoming back members?
JVW: With our double vaccination policy strongly supported by the majority of Members, which also abides by the government’s current health orders, we are pleased to be welcoming our RGC community into this safe space. Various government restrictions have hindered our plans to gather our Members to celebrate our 60th anniversary this year. We are excited to unveil some of our anniversary plans, and also bring back some of our signature, annual events to the Club. Our Redevelopment is being completed and unveiled to our Members in phases, which has also been the ultimate homecoming.

BEC: What does it mean to you to contribute to the health and wellness of your members?
JVW: Whether our Members are training and competing at an elite-level, interested in learning a new sport, or want social activity to simply stay active, access to all of our premier athletic facilities and specialized programs are available to Members of all ages and skill-level. We truly believe that the Royal Glenora Club is a place that our Members can enjoy at any stage in life. Aside from the obvious physical benefits of being a Member, our inclusive, tight-knit, family-oriented community provides invaluable mental and emotional supports, that I believe have become even more treasured throughout the pandemic. Providing a place that nurtures our Members’ bodies, minds, and souls is what we strive for as an athletic and social club.

BEC: How has hospitality changed in the last 10 years? And how has the club changed along with it?
JVW: Over the last 10 years, more competition has been created – like the rise of boutique fitness studios and recreation academies in our city. Continually raising our standard of excellence to create an irreplaceable experience that our competitors cannot emulate has been critical. Additionally, creating a solid online presence and cultivating a virtual RGC community has been another way the RGC has had to adapt over the last decade.

BEC: What do you hope for the next 10 years of the Royal Glenora Club?
JVW: With a stunning Redevelopment complete, our Club will be able to accommodate the needs of our growing Membership over the next decade. In 10 years, our Club will be celebrating its 70th anniversary, which means we may have Members who will experiencing this special place with generations of their families. Being able to help families create memories is such a remarkable thing. Evolving over the next decade to be able to welcome even more Edmontonians to experience the Royal Glenora Club with their friends and loved ones is the ultimate goal.