A partnership with BMW will firmly place The Thermal Club, the exclusive private motorsport track in the East Valley, on a path of continued growth and development.
BMW and Thermal Club officials announced the formation of a new BMW Performance Center West on 32 acres next to the Thermal Club. BMW Performance Centers are basically driving schools for some of BMW’s most serious enthusiasts. The Thermal location will be the only one on the West Coast, and only the second in the United States. The other Performance Center is located in Spartenburg, South Carolina.
âThis is definitely, I would say, the best quality facility we have, truly anywhere, in terms of location in the heart of the California market in the Western region,â said Peter Miles, Head of development of sales channels and customer relations. at BMW.
The Thermal Club, set among groves of date palms and other crops, and just minutes from Jacqueline Cochran Regional Airport, opened in April 2012. It is planned as a private members-only tour, with a clubhouse, a tuning workshop. , a trackside garage and 300 lots where members will build their âgarage villasâ which largely function as a trackside condo and a super cool garage where members will store their race cars.
âThe easiest way to describe it is to take a high-end country club, like The Madison, and change it from golf to cars,â said Tony Renaud, president of the Thermal Club, in an interview in May. “All the amenities you would have in an upscale country club ie spa, pool, family activity, restaurants.”
Construction of features such as the spa and children’s center will begin in about two years, and the entire 344-acre site master plan will be completed in about four years.
The Thermal Club is currently building four special villas, which are approximately 60% complete. Two of them have already been sold, Renaud said. Eight to 10 other members are also involved in the construction of their own villa-garages.
The BMW site is right next to the spa club and spans 32 acres. The Performance Center West will feature a 1.3 mile road running track, an 8,600 square foot building and a “huge shade structure,” Renaud said.
“They will be completely independent,” he added.
âAnd 300 days a year, they will be using one of our facilities – one of our racetracks – for their M-class activities,â Renaud said, referring to the BMW M-series line of cars, now in their 30th year. “This will be a great facility, not only good for Thermal and our members, but also for the community with such an iconic brand located right in the Coachella Valley.”
Performance centers are undoubtedly key elements of BMW’s marketing strategy, officials say. They put customers – or potential customers – behind the wheel of some of the European automaker’s best cars. And locating a performance center on the West Coast seemed like a no-brainer, given that the Western US sales region is the country’s largest and the world’s fifth-largest auto market.
âIt’s been a long journey to get there, but a big one,â Miles said at a Friday morning press conference at the Thermal Club.
There was a time when the Thermal Club’s future seemed uncertain, given the Great Recession of 2009, which largely dampened luxury spending, company officials admitted.
When planning for the Thermal Club began, “it was a whole different concept,” said Renaud. âThere was no funding involved.
âFrom a county perspective, they were very reluctant,â he added.
The original concept was to build with âmembers’ money,â said Renaud, who noted that potential members were reluctant to sign up.
Renaud does not disclose the identity of the members or the number of members of the club, but said: “Membership growth is ahead of target”.
And joining the Thermal is a far cry from reaching your local gym. On the one hand, members have to buy real estate at the club. Prizes can cost anywhere from $ 400,000 to nearly $ 1 million. While the initiation fee and annual membership costs can run into the tens of thousands of dollars, which is to say nothing of what a nice vintage racing car can cost.
âWe have a number of members who come by helicopter, so we have a little cushion for them here,â Renaud said in May, pointing to the helipad, a clear indication of the kind of 1% crowd looking for Thermal Club memberships.
âAs we grow, our marketing is done only by word of mouth,â he added. âSo mainly you won’t see any ads because we are targeting a specific target for memberships.â