Friday, January 14, 2011

The rise and fall of recreational clubs

From the Jan 2011 MN North Star Ski Club newsletter (emphases mine) ...

“Ted Wirth’s hiking club is on its last legs” This was a Star & Trib article on October 26, 2010 describing the decline and demise of a 90-year old Minneapolis Municipal Hiking Club. It peaked at about 500 members and apparently had a full program of 88 hikes in 1928, for example. One member described her first hike in 1934 as starting at West 54th Street and Penn Avenue South (where Settergrin’s Hardware has been for 100 years), going into the “countryside” and ending at Lake Calhoun.

Currently, the average age of its Board is 84. The article summarizes that the club is victim of aging membership and changing exercise habits. Is this pertinent to our North Star’s with our aging membership and gradually declining numbers? Along with the two previous NS Presidents, I wonder what we can do about this?

The "Ted Wirth" referenced in the Strib article lent his name to one of the best of many excellent MSP parks. Ninety years is an impressive record; most of the recreational clubs I've known had lifespans in the 10-30 year range.

I wonder what they the MMHC did right. Google didn't turn up any tips on what makes for a long-lived club. A lot of people would like to know the answer, not least the evidently shrinking North Star (nordic) Ski Club.

Maybe The Atlantic or The New Yorker will assign someone to survey long lived clubs and ask them how they both recruit new members and retain the faithful core (excluding university associated organizations of course. It's easy for them!). I'd buy that issue ...

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