ACBL Unit 503


Bridge Center Management and Finances

Recently a number of players have asked about the finances and management of the Bridge Center.

Here is a little history and background. The Palo Alto Bridge Unit started in 1957. The first Bridge Center was at Elwell Ct. and opened in March 1975. It was organized and funded by deposits made by the Club Owners who chose to hold their games there. When a Club Owner sold their game, the deposit went with it.

However, at the owners’ request, after the lease at Elwell Ct. expired, the Unit signed the lease at Terminal Blvd. At that time, Club Owners were reimbursed for their investment, and the Unit agreed to provide management (via the Board and Treasurer) and took over the financial risk from the Club Owners. Our Unit is not typical. In the country, there are only about 20 (this number may have increased) units which have a space leased by the board of the unit and not by club owners.  Most unit boards really have no authority over what Club Owners do.

The Club Owners may play their games at the Bridge Center or outside (such as the games owned by Walter Miller and John Schwartz). The owners who play at the Bridge Center pay rent to the Center based on the number of players at their games, currently $15.50/table. They also pay a sanction fee to the ACBL. Owners whose games are not held at the Center do not pay rent to the Bridge Center or the Unit, but do pay for supplies used from the Bridge Center.  

The costs for the Bridge Center are paid for by the rent, which is calculated on the number of tables. That is the primary income to the BC, supplemented by rent for classes taught there, along with a few other small items. For the first 9 months of 2011 (while we were still at the Terminal Way facility), monthly revenues averaged $9.8K from club owner and Unit Game rent, plus $.6K from education rent, for a total of about $10K per month. Going forward, we estimate our fixed costs to be around $10.0 per month, as follows:

Costs $K/Month
Rent $6
Utilities excl. Electric 0.5
Electric (est.) 1.0
Janitorial 1.0
Supplies 1.2
Other 0.3
otal Estimated Costs $10.0

We will need to get some real-time data over the next few months to establish a baseline, and will then readjust our forecasts.

We do not try to make a significant profit on the running of the Bridge Center. However, we do need to be able to ensure that we can meet our fixed costs and have some cushion in case of emergency or changes to our situation.

In determining rents that we charge Club Owners, we walk a tightrope in order to meet our expenses, attract and retain excellent Club Owners, and provide affordable games for our players. As you probably know, our Club Owners aren’t doing this to get rich. They put in enormous efforts in return for a relatively small financial gain. Their income comes from their table fees less their expenses, which include food and other incidentals, and sometimes the cost of a second director. If they sell their club, anything received is based on their goodwill/clientele and time slot at the Bridge Center. The Unit receives no compensation.

Our Club Owners set the table fees for their games. The Unit has no control over table fees charged. In our Unit, most games charge $8 or $9 per person. The Unit wants to keep the table fees competitive with other games in the area, both to make it affordable to members and allow the Club Owner to earn a profit. The only way the Unit can directly impact Club Owner income is through the rental fees to them.