About six months after Washtenaw Community College walked away from a deal to buy the financially strapped Washtenaw Country Club, the private club has found another potential buyer.
The Berger family, owners of the Polo Fields Golf & Country Club in Scio Township, is negotiating a purchase of the 122-acre club, located off of Packard between Golfside and Hewitt in Ypsilanti Township.
Ed Shaffran, a local developer and Washtenaw Country Club member, said that Citizens Bank was willing to write down $1 million of the club’s $1.9 million debt, if the purchase goes through by year’s end. The club, which includes an 18-hole golf course, incurred the debt for renovations, but was unable to pay because of declining membership. There are about 120 members, according to Shaffran.
Steve Berger, general manager of the Polo Fields, said it was premature to comment on a possible purchase.
Early this year, Washtenaw Community College had considered buying the property, but WCC trustees voted unanimously against the decision at a March board meeting. A March 25, 2009 report in The Ann Arbor News stated that the college would have assumed the club’s debt and paid for ongoing expenses, but would not have paid additional funds for the purchase. The News also reported this spring that Fred Veigel of the Washtenaw County Parks and Recreation Commission suggested the county look into purchasing the site, but that suggestion wasn’t pursued.
A letter sent to Washtenaw Country Club members indicated that if the deal goes through, for two years following the sale the new owners would offer comparable membership fees, with dual membership in both clubs. Shaffran said that Washtenaw Country Club charges $4,000 annually for individual memberships and $5,500 for families.
Earlier this month, the club’s voting members supported a proposal to give the board authority to negotiate a sale, Shaffran said.
If the Bergers decide to pull out of the purchase, the club will likely close, Shaffran said: “If they walk, we’re done.” After the first of the year there’ll be insufficient funds to pay for staff. Shaffran said it’s his understanding that the bank has already begun foreclosure proceedings, in the event the sale doesn’t go through.
The club, which opened in 1899, is one of the oldest in Michigan.