NEW YORK — Founded in 1897, the Yale Club of New York is getting on in years, and so are many of its members. Eighty-two percent of them are over the age of 30, and in order to sustain itself, the club is hoping to draw a younger crowd.
Young membership — which includes alumni aged 21 to 30 — has grown only three percent in the past five years, and so the club is trying to attract new members with added perks. Recently, the Yale Club introduced reduced membership fees, free gym membership for the first year, social events for young alumni, and later dining hours. But these perks do not last forever — within three years of graduation, young alumni must pay the full price for gym use, $400, as well as an increased base membership fee. And when that kicks in, many members drop out, the club’s president said.
The club has spent more than $10 million in the past 10 years on renovations to make the club more contemporary, said Timothy Hill, director of marketing and communications at the club. The club extended its dining hours to 10 p.m. instead of 9 p.m. to appeal to young professionals who frequently don’t get off work until late in the evening. It has also introduced several social events targeted at young people, including a “Mixology Series,” which featured a night of absinthe drinks, and “Liquor Treating” on Halloween. The club hosted the Feb Club Emeritus Kick-Off Party and grouped alumni by age. Hill added that the club also offers free events for non-member alumni, including Thursday night cocktails that attract both young alumni and current Yale students who are interning in New York during the summer.
Young alumni will lead the Yale Day of Service in May, and the club held a Young Alumni Welcome to New York in conjunction with the Association of Yale Alumni, which drew 250 people.
And the Yale Club offers reduced membership rates for young alumni to attract them to the club, Hill said. For $500, young alumni get full use of the Yale Club, as well as a full gym membership for the first year.
Sunny Larson ’03 said the gym membership is probably the single biggest draw for young alumni, explaining that the number of young alumni she sees in the gym is second in concentration only to the alumni she sees at reunions at Yale. A membership at a nice gym in the city, she said, costs more than $500 per year — the New York Sports Club at Grand Central, for example, charges $86 per month. Still, club dues increase gradually each year after young alumni join the club, Hill said, and eventually plateau at $435 per quarter, with an additional $400 per year for gym membership.
Yale Club President Henry Bertram ’73 said while most young members retain their membership, the club sees some attrition from younger members after three to five years because of the higher dues. But he said part of the attrition is from people who drop their membership when they move to the suburbs as they start families, and most young members stay on board.
Christopher Eger ’01, who recently joined the club, said the club’s pricing policy makes sense.
“It’s very accommodative in terms of where you are in your career,” he said. “That’s the way it should be. As you become more established in your career, the dues go up until they eventually plateau. It’s not like they’re charging you an arm and a leg.”
While the overall reaction to the changes has been favorable, Betram said he periodically receives letters from older members complaining about changes to the club to appeal to a younger generation of alumni, including a transition from a coat-and-tie dress code to business casual in 1999.
“We’ve shown a willingness to go with the times a bit,” Bertram said. He said he receives more complaints from members concerning the large number of activities at the club. The library is frequently used for entertaining and speakers, which Bertram said sometimes aggravates club members who want the library to be exclusively used for studying.
But Larson said it was these very events in the library that have brought together multiple generations of Yalies.
“Just like Yale,” club secretary Dev Gandhi ’02 said, “it’s many different things to many different people.”