Business

Club West Golf Could Return this Fall

(Source: Ahwatukee Foothills News): PClub West residents likely will know by next week if the prospective new owners will be closing their deal with Wilson Gee to buy the golf course.

Four men, including Ahwatukee Realtor Mike Mendoza, have until June 10 to complete a due diligence period for evaluating the property — but Gee’s broker is optimistic the deal will go forward. Mendoza did not return calls seeking comment.

Although the issue of finding cheaper water appears to remain unresolved, the prospective owners last month presented their plans to the Foothills Club West Community Association board, promising a huge investment beyond the $850,000 they’re to pay for the site.

The presentation said they would be spending $1 million on maintenance and upgrades to the clubhouse, driving range and the course itself.

“Our goal is to rebuild Club West Golf Course to its original state,” the owners said in a handout, promising “to add considerable value to the property, thus adding value to the Foothills Club West membership.”

The presentation said the pending buyers would offer “casual to fine dining at our newly renovated restaurant” and make it “a friendly neighborhood gathering place.”

The timeline laid out in the presentation included four phases, with overseeding slated for the fall. Though not mentioned, the overseeding suggests they expect the course would be playable before the end of the year.

The first phase, tentatively set to be completed in August, included major renovations of the clubhouse, including an expanded patio and interior remodeling, opening the driving range as soon as possible with the addition of a retaining wall and “possibly adding moveable sun screening for summertime use.”

Along with resurfacing the parking lot and adding landscaping around the lot and clubhouse entry, phase one also would include refurbishing the lake with a new liner and cleaning and replacing the railroad ties on its southern side with concrete blocks, upgrading the maintenance building and “bring back to life” the south end of the practice green.

Phase two, August through September, would include irrigation system repairs, rainwater retention equipment, course cleanup and tree trimming, turf and bunker reduction and stripping the top portion of tees and sprigging.

That phase also calls for starting an “alternative water source infrastructure,” but adds the words “if found.”

Jon Knudson, who is representing Gee in the sale, said the prospective buyers are exploring “several different options” but expressed confidence the sale would be concluded successfully by or before June 10.

HOA board President Mike Hinz said, “My understanding is that they’re attempting to solve the water problem.”

Of the overall presentation, Hinz said, ”They had some nice plans and renderings. We listened and made some suggestions.”

“We’re waiting for them to come back to us and we want to see what we can do to get them across the finishing line,” Hinz added.

Water has been at the heart of the course’s rocky history over the last three years.

In late spring 2016, the city cut off water to the course, triggering its partial deterioration, after Gee fell delinquent on his bill.

Gee said his annual irrigation costs exceeded $700,000, making operation of the course economically unfeasible.

That’s because the course must currently rely on potable water.

And, as a resident discovered during an ill-fated effort to organize homeowners into buying the course, that water problem was started by Phoenix city officials.

Homeowner Jim Lindstrom had tried to organize the effort to have residents buy the course in the fall of 2016, but failed to get enough homeowners to sign on to the deal.

During his work, Lindstrom discovered an agreement that Phoenix officials signed in the mid 1980s with the former Del Webb Development Company when it was building Club West to provide reclaimed water from a plant that the developer would build.

“After just 12 years, the city decided to abandon the plant, citing high operating costs,” Lindstrom said at the time. “So far, we have not discovered what, if anything, the city offered to replace the water at an economical price. So basically, the city changed the ground rules and left the golf course high and dry in the early 2000s.”

Lindstrom said the city apparently never told homeowners about the water-sourcing problems from 2002 to 2013, or that it was substituting more expensive potable water for reclaimed water to the golf course.

“The homeowners at Club West purchased homes with the understanding that the focal point for the community, the golf course, would be operated and maintained,” Lindstrom said.

“Surely the city knew that their decisions to shut the reclamation plant down would have enormous impact on the owner of the golf course,” he added. “Surely, Wilson Gee knew about these agreements when he purchased the course in December 2009.”

Gee has said that he and the city had an agreement to pay a discounted rate for potable water through 2015, but that the city abruptly terminated the arrangement.

“This is no different than an office building or hospital being approved and constructed and after just 25 years, the city decides to discontinue the sewer system to the buildings,” Lindstrom said.

The high cost of city water became part of the circumstances that led to the downfall of the course’s last buyer, Richard Brueninger and the Inter Tribal Golf Association.

Brueninger agreed to pay $1 million for the course in the fall of 2017 and found an investor to pony up $350,000 that he sued to overseed the course and restore it to its original lush landscape.

But Breuninger fell into arrears on his bill from the Phoenix Water Services Department by as much as $200,000. The city shut off the tap in February 2018, and the course returned to barren desert within a matter of months.

Gee foreclosed on Breuninger last August after he fell behind on his payments on the $1 million note he signed Dec. 1, 2017, to buy the course.

Gee almost immediately put it up for sale, adding the proviso that the buyer would have to be prepared to pay an additional $1 million for completion of a pipeline that would bring water from the Gila River Indian Community, then beneath the South Mountain Freeway and ultimately to the Club West Course.

That proviso apparently is part of the deal as the prospective new owners explore other alternatives for finding cheap water.

There has been an effort to find potential water around the Club West community, since the adjacent Foothills Golf Course relies on a well that taps into an aquifer that likely will provide plenty of water for decades.

The Foothills HOA has declined to even discuss the possibility of its well water being used to irrigate the Club West Course.

The pipeline project is the brainchild of Ahwatukee businessman Rande Leonard, who owns Pecos Storage on the south rim of the soon-to-disappear Pecos Road at the end of 32nd Street.

The Arizona Department of Transportation already agreed to install concrete sleeves beneath the freeway for the pipeline.

Leonard told AFN: “Yes, I’m involved and yes the pipeline is a part of the deal. The closing date is June 10 so we will know where things stand in a week.”