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Pa. golf course up for sale again

March 29, 2005|by RICHARD F. BELISLE

waynesboro@herald-mail.com

MERCERSBURG, Pa. - The financially strapped Whitetail Golf Resort near Mercersburg is for sale again.

This time the asking price is $4.5 million, Larry Hirsh of Golf Property Analysts in Harrisburg, Pa., the real estate firm hired by the Hummelstown, Pa., General Authority to sell the property, said Monday.

"We've had some inquiries," Hirsh said, but declined to elaborate.

Mike O'Keefe, borough manager for Hummelstown, said he is under orders not to comment. O'Keefe said in 2003 that the borough would not lose money even if the venture failed.

Pennsylvania law allows counties and municipalities to create general authorities to float tax-exempt bonds for public and private ventures.

Hummelstown bought the 250-acre golf course on Blairs Valley Road in 1999 for $7.5 million from the Dauphin County General Authority.

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The underwriters for the Hummelstown General Authority sold the bonds that financed the purchase of the golf course to four Pennsylvania school districts. The bonds were defaulted on last summer and now the school districts are trying to recover their investments.

Before Hummelstown bought it, the Borough of Mercersburg General Authority launched an ambitious plan to float $41 million in bonds to buy both the Whitetail Mountain Resort and the golf course next door even though construction on the golf course had not begun.

Mercersburg was unable to sell the bonds so the deal was dropped.

The golf course and ski resort share the same name but are not connected in any way.

Described by golfers as one of the most beautiful settings, the 18-hole course runs for 7,000 yards and is surrounded by forested hills with wide vistas. Licking Creek runs through it and is crossed by 11 wooden bridges. The course has two man-made ponds and 40 acres, including woodlands, meadows and wetlands, set aside in conservation easements.

Seven miles of paved golf-cart paths crisscross the course.

Hummelstown, a Dauphin County town of 4,000 near Harrisburg, hired Kemper Sports Management Group of Northbrook, Ill., to manage the course when it opened in April 2001.

Kemper manages about 60 golf courses around the country, including Holly Hills and Whiskey Creek in Frederick, Md.

It reopened three months later under new management hired by Hummelstown and an attempt was made to lure area golfers with lower greens fees.

In July 2003, Keystone Sports Foundations announced plans to buy the golf course for $14.5 million and expand the facility with a hotel and conference center.

Six months later that deal fell through when Keystone, which promotes golf tournaments, did not come up with the money.

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