May 30, 2012 10:04:38 AM
People are quick to dismiss the financial troubles of the bankrupt Columbus Country Club. Snobs, fat cats and elitists are terms that get thrown around in conversations about the 89-year-old club.
Though it is a private club, we see the Columbus Country Club as a community resource. The club opens its doors to weddings, reunions and civic clubs. Non-members can play 18 holes for a competitive $35. The club's amazing pool is available to anyone willing to purchase a summer pool membership. No other Columbus venue offers as many event options.
The club is in dire straits financially. As of the end of April, it had about $61,000 in the bank; it has burned through between $6,000 and $15,000 per month over the past six months.
Club leadership is concerned with preserving the clubhouse and grounds for recreation, social events and meals but is less concerned with what the eventual incarnation of the club looks like. They just want it to survive. They recognize the club - in its present state - may not be economically viable.
David Shelton - who loaned the club $300,000 in 2010 - has offered to purchase the club for $1.3 million. Though he is mum on what his plans are for the real estate, Shelton says he is simply trying to recoup his investment. Shelton, a savvy businessman, would need to flip his purchase of the club for $1.6 million just to break even.
We were encouraged when East Mississippi Community College's board voted last year to explore the possibility of purchasing the property for its culinary arts program and were disappointed when they subsequently voted against exploring the idea. A purchase by EMCC has the potential to preserve the operations of the club while providing the school a turn-key solution for their restaurant and hotel management students and for a proposed turf management program. We are sure a new facility for such programs would cost much more than $1.3 million to construct.
Chapter 11 bankruptcies involve finding a plan that satisfies the club's creditors, and the most attractive plan currently on the table is Shelton's. The club is expected to submit a competing plan this summer.
We hope someone - the existing board, Shelton or another party - produces a plan that will ensure the club's survival as a community resource.
Too often we in Columbus have a tendency to hold people accountable for ancient mistakes while asking why this place never changes. The club's exclusivity is ancient history. Let's find a way to save this thing.