SBJ/July 13-19, 1998/This Week's News

Golf course builder targets U. of Louisville

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – University Clubs of America Inc. could spend at least $10 million to develop a private golf course for the University of Louisville as one of 15 such projects throughout the South.

Tara Singer, assistant vice president for alumni relations at Louisville, said the school received a proposal from the company but has not yet completed a written agreement. She said several school groups – including the athletic department, alumni office and board of trustees – still must give approval before the university moves forward.

The course, to be called the Cardinal Club, would become the home course for the university’s men’s and women’s golf teams. Singer said the teams would not have to pay for using the facility. The school also would have other opportunities to use the club without cost, such as for university-sponsored golf scrambles and social events.

University Clubs would market memberships to the golf club through the school’s alumni association. The facility’s construction would have a University of Louisville theme.

The school would make no financial contribution to the project, but it would earn a percentage of initiation fees and dues brought in by the course, Singer said.

“It will give people fond of the university another place to gather for recreation,” she said. “It’s an unusual opportunity for an institution.”

Carl Espy, managing director of Columbia, S.C.-based University Clubs, said his company would spend at least $10 million to develop the course provided it can secure the land and reach an agreement with the school. If the necessary approvals come this fall, construction could start early next year. The club would take 18 to 24 months to build.

University Clubs would benefit financially from the club by retaining the majority of membership dues.

Espy said University Clubs is in “serious” discussions about similar projects at 14 other schools throughout the South. Espy said construction has started on a golf course near Auburn University. The University of Kentucky and Vanderbilt University also are working with the company to seek land for their own projects.

The model for the company’s projects is at the University of South Carolina, where University Clubs operates a 27-hole facility with more than 2,000 members. Built in 1993, the club just completed a $2 million expansion that includes a swimming pool and fitness facility. Espy said construction soon will begin on a nine-hole addition to the club.

“We saw a need for universities to have a place that alumni, boosters and friends could meet on an athletic and social basis,” Espy said.

The Cardinal Club at the University of Louisville would have a target of 1,500 members total, but only about 500 local members, Espy said. Other members would be recruited from the school’s alumni base in the state and nationally. He said the company hasn’t determined what the rates for membership would be, but that they would be comparable with other private clubs in the area.

Rick Redding writes for Business First in Louisville, Ky.

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