In the summer of 2019, Greg and Rita Burton, owners of the Bridge Studio of Tulsa, decided to retire as of the end of 2019. They had owned and operated the Bridge Studio for more than 20 years. Over the past few years, the number of players had declined due to relocations, health issues, and death. A committee was formed by ACBL Unit 158 (northeastern Oklahoma) to study the options; the Bridge Studio was the largest club in the unit and it was the strong desire of the Unit committee and the players to keep the club going. Greg allowed the committee to review his financial statements which showed that the Bridge Studio had been operating at breakeven and was not profitable. It was clear that without a major renovation of the facilities and the addition of new players that the Bridge Studio was not going to survive. The committee studied 3 alternatives:
The first option was ruled out because the club was not generating enough revenue to get a fair return on investment. The second option was ruled out based on feedback from other locations where this was tried and because it would create conflicts with the other clubs in the Unit. The committee decided that the best alternative was option #3. The committee decided to use the Fun & Games (F&G) model from Oklahoma City which had been implemented with huge success. Both F&G and Unit 167 have experienced major growth and in just a few years F&G became the largest club in District 15 (Oklahoma, Kansas, western Arkansas, northern Texas, SW Missouri). F&G pursued and achieved 501(c)3 status. Aside from creating a warm and welcoming environment, F&G utilized new teaching techniques like EasyBridge to develop a new group of players. The committee reached out to F&G who bent over backwards to share their experiences and to help. F&G even made the very first donation of cash to our new entity!
While all this was being discussed, the Unit was also proceeding with planning for the Sep-2019 Non Life Master sectional tournament, which was to be held at the Bridge Studio. Unit members joined together and spruced up the facility, giving it a major face lift. More than $30,000 was spent on improvements including new flooring, fresh paint, wall décor, etc. These improvements were funded by cash and in kind donations. The generosity and hard work of our members was nothing short of incredible.
The Work Begins
Organizational meetings for the new entity were held in September. The committee realized that there was a very short period of time (a little more than 3 months) to essentially start a new business from scratch. The first step was to become a legal entity. Players were polled and the committee decided on our new name and identity: the Route 66 Bridge Club. In early October, Route 66 became incorporated in the State of Oklahoma as a non profit corporation. Legal counsel was retained to help with the submission of the detailed and voluminous application for tax exempt status. Committee members did the leg work for preparation of the application to save on legal fees.
In parallel, meetings were held with the landlord and terms negotiated. While exploring the options described above, the Unit committee looked at alternative locations for the club. However, the current location appeared to be the best solution because of:
After incorporation, the incorporators met and elected the initial Board of Directors. The work of starting a new business became even more intense. There were a huge number of steps required so that we could open on 1-Jan-2020 (e.g. establishing our mission and bylaws, getting our ACBL sanction, setting up utilities and insurance, working with the EasyBridge team to get organized and certified to teach, publicity, planning and implementing renovations to the facility, etc.).
A fund raising drive was started in Nov-2019, with the goal of raising $75,000 to fund initial operations and complete the planned renovations. As of end of 2019, Route 66 has achieved 97% of the goal.
The Route 66 Bridge Club officially opened on 1-Jan-2020 and held our first duplicate game.