The Milwaukee Athletic Club: A Platinum-level Meeting Place

The Milwaukee Athletic Club (MAC) was established in 1882 and for well over a century has provided a space for club members to exercise both physical and social muscles. The club remains one of the only fitness clubs with private men’s and women’s athletic/sauna/spa facilities, each with its own lap pool, and MAC has grown over the years to serve a variety of additional business services. Governed by a 12-member Board of Directors and employing a staff of about 150 full- and part-time employees, the MAC offers members the broadest range of opportunities. The club remains located in the same building it took possession of in 1917, occupying almost three-quarters of a city block in downtown Milwaukee, Wis., a location that includes hospitality space for members and non-members alike.
 
“We are unique in that we’re one of maybe five clubs in the downtown area, but we have everything. We’re almost like a miniature city,” explains Lorenzo Vicini, MAC general manager and a 34-year employee of the club. “We’re still in this gorgeous 13-story building with 60 guest rooms, 22 meeting rooms and the best looking Grand Ballroom in the state. We also have state-of-the-art kitchen and dining facilities, a few bars and a really spacious deck. We’re a one-stop shop and that’s why we host so many weddings. We can take care of lodging, dining and the reception and we will do this for members as well as non-members.”
 
Stay and Play
The MAC’s guest rooms include four suites and three mini-suites, are available at corporate rates for frequent users, and evening shuttle service is provided for guests. Fitness classes are available, as well as massage therapy and personal training services. The MAC’s increasing presence as a social hub has resulted in some adaptation, however. “When I became the general manager in 2003 we were known for having some nude swimming, so my first order of business was to make sure every member had their swim trunks on,” laughs Vicini.
Additional cosmetic changes have been directly tied to the facility’s growth. In the past few years, the company has made some major investments to offer members and the market compelling amenities. “In 2006 we made a major investment in the kitchen facilities that was just shy of $2 million,” reveals Vicini. “We didn’t just renovate the kitchen, but we also redid the dining room, our Elephant Room bar and dining area, and we redesigned some of the spaces to give it more of a country club feel, which included some upgrades to the fitness facilities and the creation of a lounge area.
 
“Overall, the investment has been very well received, but the most significant change was our decision to invest in a kitchen of Alto-Shaam equipment, which many of the major restaurants and cruise ships have,” continues Vicini. Alto-Shaam equipment has built itself on a reputation for maximizing efficiency in commercial and large-scale kitchens, producing less waste and with less energy. The signature ovens cook with patented heating technology that helps meat retain 20-percent more moisture and volume than other ovens, which translates into juicy, tender dishes every time.
 
“We have been just blown away by the reception of the new food,” reflects Vicini. “We have a team of really talented chefs on staff and the food they can produce in the new kitchen is just amazing. It doesn’t taste, look, or smell like banquet food, because we now have equipment that can serve 200 or 200 guests with amazing quality consistency.”
 
Food for Thought, Drink It All In
This investment in updated kitchen facilities has been particularly well-timed as the MAC has seen its membership grow particularly fast amongst a younger crowd and it has made changes accordingly to its dining experience, staying on top of trends and representing more niche cuisines. “We can’t afford to stop changing the menus,” says Vicini. “We’re always looking to make sure certain items are always there, but there’s another set of the membership that also wants to see more options that appeal to a wider palate, but that offer the same, and even better quality standards. The speed of our dining has also changed, because we’re seeing less and less that members want to have a long drawn out dining experience. They expect a fine dining experience, but, especially for lunches, they want quicker service, and so we have adapted to that because we’re very excited about the younger membership. Nobody wants to be seen as a dinosaur.”
 
Aside from the infrastructural investments, the MAC has worked hard to cater to the new generation’s networking needs. “Networking was always something that just happened here, it wasn’t something we ever consciously tried to do, but with this new generation of 20-somethings we have set up networking events and themed nights for the bars for that exact purpose,” says Vicini. “Now we have Young Executive Nights, Corporate Tuesdays, Thirsty Thursdays and Double Date Friday mixer specials to help the downtown crowd mingle.”
 
In the coming year, the MAC hopes to continue to develop its already sterling reputation and attentive services despite a limping economy. “We did have to make some adjustments to our expenses when the economy turned south, but our priority was always to make sure that we could uphold the level of service we have always had. It’s the one issue we absolutely cannot bend on,” asserts Vicini.
 
“Eventually we will be making some improvements to the hotel rooms, including the bathrooms, and we have capital investment plan in the works for that,” he continues. “But my main objective is to continue making this club viable and to make sure it’s in better shape for the next general manager through heavy strategic planning. We want to see our membership grow from the 1,200 we currently have back to the 1,400 we had before the downturn, so we have reduced our dues to encourage that.” An additional perk is that members of the MAC may use the facilities of over 100 affiliate clubs around the world.
 
With committees actively appointed to address specific issues and develop contemporary services, the Milwaukee Athletic Club will continue to be a cool place to workout, network and have fun.