ST. PETERSBURG — Here's a leading economic indicator:
In March, the Treasure Island Tennis and Yacht Club trumpeted the news that, after three years of construction, it had completed a multimillion-dollar expansion.
On Friday, seven months later, the club filed for bankruptcy.
The Treasure Island Tennis and Yacht Club, 400 Treasure Island Causeway, was founded in 1971. Thirty years later, its membership rolls topped 700 people, and its list of benefactors included developer and former Ambassador Mel Sembler and former St. Petersburg Mayor Corinne Freeman.
Although the club filed for reorganization in Tampa federal court under Chapter 11 of the bankruptcy code, that doesn't mean it will close up shop, a club official said.
"Under Chapter 11, it is the club's intent to remain fully operational to meet our commitments to our members and their guests," general manager Marie Fivecoat said in an e-mail to the Times on Saturday. "The bankruptcy filing was a proactive measure made by the board of directors to deal with the long-term debt, and was not as a result of operational deficiencies, as evidenced by our short list of trade creditors."
The club, which featured 15 tennis courts and a marina with 48 permanent slips, used to be housed in a two-story clubhouse that dated back to 1972. But in 2005, the club's leaders wanted to expand, and that meant building a three-story structure that would include a banquet area to accommodate up to 350 people, something the old building lacked.
"We've discovered that the (new) club is very popular for wedding receptions and large-scale social events," then-manager John McManus said in 2007. The extra business such events generate was a big incentive for the yacht club to begin the expansion, he said.
The renovations called for buildings taller than Treasure Island's rules allow, and with fewer parking spaces, so city commissioners had to approve the plans.
Three of the five commissioners had been given free memberships in the club, and four were shareholders at a time when memberships were valued at roughly $90 per month and shares were worth between $1,500 and $2,500 each.
But the state Ethics Commission said they did not have to recuse themselves because they received no direct financial benefit from the club's renovations. The vote wound up 4-1 to approve the changes.
A company called Creative Contractors built the 30,000-square-foot expansion.
The $7.1-million club included not just the banquet area but also a fitness center, spa and massage area.
But food costs soon mounted above what the club could pay. In its bankruptcy filing, the club listed as its top three creditors SYSCO Food Services ($13,502), Brisk Coffee Co. ($6,110) and Greentree Linen Consultants ($2,951).
Among the top 20 are beer and wine distributors, a pool service company and a landscaper.