The Newark Country Club, in what its president described as a bittersweet aspect, closed on a previously announced sale of its land to 300 West Main Street Associates (Lang Development).
The transaction, valued at $6 million, calls for the country club, which celebrates its 100th anniversary this year, to lease the property until 2030, with the option of adding another 10 years.
The club will continue to operate as a nonprofit under its own board of directors.
“There is a bittersweet aspect to the successful conclusion to the sale of this property, country club President Chris Scherf stated in a release. “While we were unable to continue forward indefinitely as owners of the club property, we have been able to avoid an outright closing of the club and to launch a new chapter for another 10 to 20 years. We appreciate the Lang Group working with us to fashion a novel solution.”
The sale will eliminate the club’s debt and its long-running financial struggles.
The struggles dated back years and included a suit from one member that demanded a receiver be appointed for the club, which had been running up losses. Chancery Court rejected that claim. (Click on the headline below)
More than a decade ago, the club had been slated to move to a new golf course across the state line in Maryland, with the Newark site becoming a housing development.
However, the deal fell victim to the subprime mortgage crisis and a struggling new home market.
The club has been affected by an aging membership and a general decline in golf and the country club lifestyle.
Competition intensified with Delaware Park opening a public course and, more recently, the DuPont Country Club’s new owners spending tens of millions of dollars into the property near Wilmington.
The Covid-19 crisis did not help, with Delaware having more restrictions than some states. However, as restrictions eased here and elsewhere, interest in golf and other outdoor activities perked up, with signs of an even stronger turnaround in 2021.
The club will focus on improving the golf course and raising its profile in the community as a center for banquets, fund-raisers, and other events.
“We have created a new position to market the opportunities for membership as well as alert the general public to the opportunity to hold events and parties at the club, regardless of whether or not they are members,” Scherf stated.
The response to the sale has been mixed.
Lang has been the leading developer of student housing and in Newark but has been taking heat for projects that, according to critics, have altered Newark’s college town appearance.
Others have pointed to the club’s long-running financial struggles and the need for a solution that would not immediately bring a housing development to the property.
The University of Delaware never showed an interest in the property despite its $1 billion-plus endowment.