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Group bids to buy Pa. golf course

July 11, 2003|by RICHARD BELISLE

waynesboro@herald-mail.com

MERCERSBURG, Pa. - A nonprofit foundation in Harrisburg, Pa., has signed an agreement to buy Whitetail Golf Course for $14.5 million, with plans to spend even more money to build a long-planned hotel and conference center on the property, the foundation's executive director said Thursday.

The Keystone Sports Foundation's Richard Anzolut said the agreement to purchase the 250-acre, 18-hole course was signed last month. The golf course is adjacent to Whitetail Mountain Resort on Blair's Valley Road in Montgomery Township, Pa.

The foundation has six months to come up with the purchase price, Anzolut said. It did not put any money down.

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"We have a lot to do before December, but we should have a good feel about the finances in three to four months," he said.

The golf course is owned by the Hummelstown (Pa.) General Authority. Hummelstown, a small borough of about 4,000 people east of Harrisburg, bought the partially-finished golf course from the Dauphin County (Pa.) General Authority for $7.5 million in 1999.

Michael O'Keefe, Hummelstown's borough manager and a member of its general authority, said Thursday if the sale goes through, the authority will break even because of the money spent to finish building and equipping the course, which opened in April 2001.

O'Keefe said the authority's lawyers and financial advisers brought the foundation's proposal to it for consideration. The authority's four members voted unanimously to sell, O'Keefe said.

The golf course lost about $200,000 per year in its first two years of operation, but a change in management earlier this year and new marketing strategies are turning things around, O'Keefe said.

"We're doing better than we were in the last couple of years," he said.

The Keystone Sports Foundation promotes golf tournaments. It sponsored the Ladies Professional Golf Association's Lady Keystone Open tournament in Hershey, Pa., from 1975 through 1994, Anzolut said.

He said he has had an eye on the Whitetail golf course ever since Hummelstown bought it.

In an unrelated project, a group of developers is planning to build from 500 to 700 homes on land adjacent to the golf course, Anzolut said. That's on hold until the golf course builds its own water and sewer systems, which also would serve the residential development, he said.

The golf course, hotel and conference center and residential development, along with the ski resort next door "will become a super asset for the county and township," Anzolut said.

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

In the late 1990s, the borough of Mercersburg created its own general authority with an ambitious plan to float $41 million in bonds to buy the ski resort and golf course. Construction of the golf course had not started at the time.

That plan fell through when Mercersburg failed to sell the bonds.

The ski resort, which has no connection to the golf course, was sold to Snow Time Inc. of York, Pa., in 1999.

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