BASED ON A COMMITMENT TO BELONGING AND INCLUSION, THIS SOCIAL CLUB IS A COMMUNITY CENTERPIECE FOR THE CITIZENS OF MONMOUTH COUNTY
BY AMANDA McCOY • PHOTOS BY ROBERT NUZZIE
Although the Cambridge Club celebrated its one-year anniversary just this past June, its foundation was laid decades ago. Founder and co-owner Tammy Ward was only five years old when she became a member of the Strathmore Bath and Tennis Club, a community swim club in Aberdeen Township set on the grounds of what is now the Cambridge Club. Her parents had become founding members of the Strathmore Club after relocating to the area from the Bronx, and the young Ward (then Tammy McTaggart) grew up spending much of her free time there, running around outside with other children and splashing in the pool.
“I was a very early member,” she explained. “We all had member numbers, and I was number 216. Throughout all my years before I left to go to college, this was a big part of my life.”
Ward moved away after graduating from high school to chase her passions, and eventually settled near Princeton with her husband, Frank Ward. She opened and operated an art gallery for years while she and Frank started a family. Their first child was a son, Dylan. Two years later, he was followed by Jessie, a daughter. The fact that Jessie had a health challenge caused Ward to rethink some things.
“When I gave birth to Jessie, who has Down syndrome, at that point, everything changed,” she said. “It was important for me at that time to move back home.”
When the Wards returned, they discovered that a good many things had changed in the community, including her childhood swim club. Since her sister was still a member, Ward continued to visit as a guest, and was disheartened to see that it had declined over the years.
Ward home-schooled both of her children, and as they got older, began to brainstorm business ventures with her husband. Although the former art gallery owner recognized her innate entrepreneurial spirit, she also realized she wanted to create something that was more than just another successful enterprise.
“I was always looking ahead. When Jessie was around 13, I started looking at jobs that would be available to her, and wanted to make sure she got the best of everything. I didn’t like what I saw when I started doing research. When I thought we were going to buy a business, I told my husband I had my eye on the swim club. He replied, ‘Well that’s a little ambitious,’” she recalled with a laugh.
Ward approached the board of the Strathmore Club to get a sense of whether or not they might be open to selling.
“I was told, ‘We’ll let you know,’” she said. “So I kept asking. Eventually it got to a point where they didn’t speak to me anymore. So I would call them once a year or so. Finally, just as I was about to confirm an agreement on another location, I got the call.”
It took a year and a half to finalize the purchase, but in 2008, Ward closed a deal that had been, for her, a lifetime in the making. The new owners envisioned the club as a gathering place for the community, one that had modern, state-of-the-art facilities and resort-like amenities, but also felt warm, welcoming, and, most important, inclusive. They were determined that there would never be bias against anyone based on age, race, color, gender, or level of ability.
“It was then a matter of putting the pieces of the puzzle together,” she explained. “I told construction that we would not only meet code, we would exceed code.”
The process was not without its obstacles, and it took 10 years to complete planning, redesign, and construction, but on June 23 of last year, the Cambridge Club officially opened.
The club’s amenities are expansive. There are five different pools on site—a six-lane competition pool, a zero entry activity pool, a heated therapy pool, a 20-person Jacuzzi, and a kiddie pool—plus a splash pad and playground for the kids. Designing assets for the next generation of members was vital to Ward, since her goal was to create for them the same lifelong memories she was given by the Strathmore Club.
“Kids today have devices and have the option to stay home and play video games,” she noted. “But they really like it here. They jump in the pool and run around, just like I did. Maybe they will grow up and bring their kids here. This place was created in love.”
There is also a state-of-theart gym facility, a fine-dining restaurant, a casual outdoor dining spot near one of the pools, a living room-like lounge with couches and group tables, and an adults-only rooftop deck that offers craft cocktails and panoramic views. The focal point of the club is a sprawling, 25,000-square-foot clubhouse, which has three levels and is full of striking artwork. “It’s a reminder,” said Ward, “that you are about to enter a special place.”
The calendar is full of events and gatherings for both kids and adults. For the young members, there are outdoor movie nights, a fall jamboree, teen nights, and ice cream socials. Adults enjoy wine pairings, adult swim nights, live music on the first Friday of the month, and more. The Rainbow Room, on the second floor of the clubhouse, can host private events for up to 150 people for anything from weddings and birthday parties to business conferences.
Though the facilities have undergone a complete transformation, remnants of the former site can still be seen. The original entryway is in the same location, and the beautiful old trees Ward formerly sought shade under remain.
“There are certain things that I kept that are familiar,” she said. “We also have three original members. They were my parents’ friends, and now they are here and loving the new pool. They still feel like they are home, and I love when they tell me that. In fact, one of them just celebrated her 90th birthday here.”
The development of the new club was approved for three phases, the first of which is complete. The next will bring a 5,000-square-foot area for kids and teens and a 5,000-square-foot event space. The final phase will include an indoor pool, a larger spa space, a gallery, and a theater. The second phase should get off the ground in the next two years, but right now, Ward is content to enjoy the fruits of her hard work.
“Plans are already drawn up,” she said.
“But for now, I need to just enjoy.” As for Jessie, she happily works along – side her mom, helping to create a sense of belonging and lifelong memories for the members. “She walks around like she’s the boss,” said Ward with a smile.
The Cambridge Club
400 Lloyd Road, Aberdeen 732.765.6220 /