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Pa. borough buys links at Whitetail

January 26, 2000|By RICHARD F. BELISLE, Waynesboro

MERCERSBURG, Pa. - The Hummelstown, Pa., General Authority has purchased the 18-hole, 250-acre golf course under construction near Whitetail Ski Resort, ending Mercersburg's hope of getting a piece of the Whitetail venture.

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Michael O'Keefe, borough manager for Hummelstown, a town of 4,000 in Dauphin County near Hershey, Pa., said Wednesday the authority bought the golf course from the Dauphin County General Authority for $7.5 million.

The golf course, which is seeded and 90 percent complete, is scheduled to open in the spring of 2001. It will take that time for the turf to grow in, O'Keefe said.

Plans are also in the works to build a 90-room lodge and convention center at the golf course, O'Keefe said.

The Hummelstown General Authority was created in November 1998, O'Keefe said.

Municipal general authorities can float bond issues for public and private ventures. Dauphin County's general authority has financed major school, hospital and other projects in Pennsylvania, Greg Ricci, executive director of the authority has said.

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Last year, the Mercersburg General Purpose Authority, which had been dormant for years, announced plans to buy the Whitetail complex, including the ski resort, some real estate and the golf course, for $41 million in a package deal. The plan fell through when the authority failed to sell the tax-exempt bonds needed to pay for the venture.

Ricci said Mercersburg had more than eight months to assemble its funding package. When it failed, Hummelstown stepped in. The deal was taken to Hummelstown officials by a Harrisburg, Pa., financial consultant, O'Keefe said.

The same consultant had been working with the Mercersburg authority.

Whitetail was sold to Snow Time Inc. in September for $13 million, but that deal involved only the ski resort, not the real estate holdings or the golf course. Snow Time also owns two other nearby ski resorts: Ski Liberty in Fairfield, Pa., and Ski Roundtop near Harrisburg.

O'Keefe said the Hummelstown authority has hired Kemper Sports Management Group in Northbrook, Ill., to manage the course.

Beth Atkinson, Kemper spokeswoman, said Kemper owns or manages 43 golf courses around the country. Included are Holly Hills Golf course in Frederick County, Md., and a new course due to open this spring in Frederick County called Whiskey Creek, Atkinson said.

The company also sponsors the annual Kemper Open in Potomac, Md.

Atkinson could not say how many employees will be hired for the course near Whitetail.

O'Keefe said the Hummelstown authority will use temporary financing to buy the golf course and pay expenses until its underwriter can sell permanent bonds. The authority hopes to make its profit from user fees from the golf course, he said.

The golf course will be open to the public.

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