By 10:15 the morning of Saturday, July 24, Leisure World residents were already lining up outside the doors of the community's new clubhouse waiting for the grand opening luncheon that was scheduled to begin at 11.
"Everyone was really excited and enthusiastic," Norman Dreyfuss, executive vice president of The IDI Group Companies, Leisure World's developer, said. "It's theirs, it's not ours and they seem to love it."
Indeed, the 900 Leisure World residents who came out to the grand opening celebration were very happy about their community's newest addition and the activities it would allow them to do.
"It is just fantastic," two-year resident Jack Bluestein said. "They do such a good job here."
THE NEW TWO-LEVEL, 50,000-square-foot clubhouse was built in two phases beginning in December 1998. The first half of the clubhouse, which was completed several years ago, is home to Leisure World's pool, wood-working room, pottery room and exercise rooms.
The newest portion of the clubhouse will provide residents with meeting rooms and a large theater to accommodate the many resident-run clubs.
"We never had a meeting room where we could bring a lot of people in," Dreyfuss said. "Now, with this side of the project, we do."
The new clubhouse also contains a large ballroom with a full stage for the community's theater and music productions.
"We are planning on putting up our shows again now that we have the new theater," director Maggie Weaver said. Residents plan to perform the show, "Hurrah for Hollywood" at the end of September.
In addition to Clubhouse West, as it is known, the Italian restaurant and cocktail lounge, La Pergola, opened for residents and their guests. La Pergola also caters for the clubhouse's events.
"Each club has dinners and parties and luncheons," Dreyfuss said. "In the past [residents] had to go to another restaurant, but now they can stay right here."
WHILE IT HAS taken many years for the clubhouse to become a reality, those involved say the new building was always a part of the original plan.
"There was no sense of opening this clubhouse before we had the people to support it," Mike Altuner, assistant project manager, said. "As we get more residents, we open up more facilities. We try to keep in step with the population and this is the icing on the cake."
When designing the clubhouse, many of Leisure World's 1,600 residents had the chance to be a part of the construction.
Committees were formed to look at the design and plans and give their opinions to IDI.
"It was an evolutionary process," Dreyfuss said. "The clubhouse was made for residents and they know what they need more than we do."
Residents weighed in on issues of what kind of rooms they wanted in the building to how the decorating should look. The first side, Clubhouse East, was repainted and redecorated so that it would match the new portion of the building.
"We simply set up the environment and the opportunity," Dreyfuss said, "and they make every thing work. They form the clubs, they set the agendas."
FOR THE RESIDENTS of Leisure World, the opening of the new clubhouse is the continuation of what they say is the wonderful experience of living in the community.
As they ate their desserts, friends Maria Godoy, Larry Burnett and Norma Andy joked about all the good times they have had in the current clubhouse, from meetings to 6:30 a.m. exercise classes. They said they could not wait to begin using everything the new clubhouse had to offer.
The group's feelings were echoed throughout the ballroom as residents talked and laughed together.
"I love it here," Lou Gros Louis, a five-year resident, said. "I would not live anywhere else."