Chicago plays host to many storied private clubs promising networking at a higher level than most of us are used to (is it just me hoping for a scene from Trading Places?). Today, they aren’t out of reach, or the snooty boys’ clubs you might imagine.
Though you do require a university degree to become a member (and three recommendations), the payoff is in the amazing views and gorgeous surroundings its Michigan Avenue address gives rise to. Or maybe it’s in briefly rubbing shoulders with a Pritzker.
I had the opportunity to check out the University Club of Chicago and give its facilities a day’s test run. I’ve got to say, if I networked at this level, I’d sign up in a heartbeat. Here’s my take.
Their hotel is a major perk, as members have exclusive access to rooms and the rates are more than competitive for the Loop ($99-330+ depending on the season).
Rooms are modern and well-appointed with luxe bathrooms (soaking tubs and steam showers!) and a warm, upmarket feel. There are 59 rooms, each outfitted with data lines and multiple phone lines available, and Michigan Ave. or Monroe St. views, or an inner courtyard without a view. The attention to detail (lots of outlets, Molton Brown bath products, Restoration Hardware furniture) make University Club much more sophisticated than your typical business hotel.
Want to work while there? There is a communal working space, a library, meeting rooms, and soon, a cyber cafe. With an in-progress $10 million+ renovation, to be finished Labor Day, they’ll be adding three new restaurants and an overall 15,000 sq. ft.
If this all feels a little too new, their walls boast post-war Chicago artists and the Cathedral Hall is nothing short of breathtaking, with ornate stained glass and custom ceiling and wall murals and gilding that date back to the 1908.
The library, which I worked in, was cloistered and so very conducive to a quiet, productive work session (or just contemplation). I wish I could work there daily, but I’d probably get distracted by Instagramming my surroundings.
Also on tap is a weight room, a cardio and squash center (they host professional tournaments and boast a large number of players), exercise classes, massage services, personal training, physical therapy, golf simulators, a lap pool, steam room and even a nap room… the list goes on and on!
The Gallery, one of the five restaurants currently on offer, are nothing short of delicious – and its sweeping Michigan Ave. views really set off the experience. My grilled Greek salmon salad was phenomenal and service was on point, and my companion had. I almost felt too well taken care of, if that’s possible!
I’m really pleased with my experience; the club wasn’t stuffy but really provided opportunities for a variety of amenities and networking options, including 25 “societies” of different interests. Monthly cost is dependent on your age and distance from the club – but it’s probably one of the better deals out there.