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Pa. golf course to close

Whitetail Golf Course on Blairs Valley Road has lost $200,000 a year for the past two years

Whitetail Golf Course on Blairs Valley Road has lost $200,000 a year for the past two years

January 17, 2003|by RICHARD BELISLE

waynesboro@herald-mail.com

The $7.5 million Whitetail Golf Course on Blairs Valley Road will close officially at 5 p.m. today, the victim of financial hard times, the borough manager of Hummelstown, Pa., said Thursday.

The Hummelstown General Authority bought the 250-acre course in 1999 from the Dauphin County General Authority.

Whitetail Golf Course is a separate property from Whitetail Mountain Resort next door.

"There's no connection to the ski resort," Hummelstown Borough Manager Mike O'Keefe said Thursday.

O'Keefe said officials at First Financial Bank of Downingtown, Pa., near Philadelphia, the trustee and note holder for the golf course, sent a directive to the Hummelstown General Authority to officially close the course effective today.

Thomas Barley, the bank's trust officer handling the closing, could not be reached Thursday.

No one answered the telephone at the golf course Thursday afternoon.

O'Keefe said he didn't know if the directive meant that the course would be closed permanently.

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"The bank has taken control of the golf course," he said. "I believe their motive is to save as much (money) as possible. We expect to get more direction soon on whether it will reopen or stay closed."

The golf course lost $200,000 a year for the past two years, O'Keefe said.

He said the bank's directive also brings an end to Hummelstown's contract with Kemper Sports Management Group of Northbrook, Ill. Kemper managed the course for the borough's general authority, O'Keefe said.

Kemper manages about 60 golf courses around the country, including Holly Hills and Whiskey Creek in Frederick County, Md. It also sponsors the annual Kemper Open professional golf tournament in Potomac, Md.

Michael Myers, spokesman for Kemper in Illinois, could not be reached Thursday.

O'Keefe said the bank has hired a consultant to serve as liaison with Kemper to close the course. Maintenance will continue, but at a minimal level, he said.

Hummelstown, a Dauphin County community of 4,000 near Harrisburg, won't lose money on the venture. The general authority stands alone and is a separate entity from the borough, said O'Keefe, treasurer of the authority.

The course began to lose money almost from the start. It opened in April 2001 and 20,000 rounds of golf were expected to be played the first year. The season ended with 15,000 rounds played, O'Keefe said at the time.

Original plans for the golf course called for construction of a 90-room hotel and convention center, which never was built. Also included in the original purchase was a 110-acre adjoining farm, which was to be turned into a 700-home housing development.

The Borough of Mercersburg created the Mercersburg Borough Authority early in 1999 in the hope of buying Whitetail Ski Resort and the golf course, which at the time were connected, for $41 million.

The deal fell through when Mercersburg failed to get financial backing.

Pennsylvania law allows municipal authorities to float tax-exempt bonds for public and private ventures.

Snow Time Inc. bought Whitetail Ski Resort in August 1999 for $13 million. The golf course was not part of the deal.

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