Monday, January 5, 2015

Oro Valley Businessman Would Have Loved To Have Leased The ELCon Golf Courses

There is a local businessman, Rick Chandler, who has been and continues to be interested in operating the The El Conquistador Country Club.  His quest to do so have been ongoing for several years.

Chandler, founder and former owner of Baja Spas, has offered to talk with the Town Of Oro Valley.  He would like to lease the golf course from the town, once it owned it, and to operate the course.

"I have put group of experts together. We have offered the town of Oro Valley to lease the golf courses. This would immediately take the town out of the golf business, which seems to be the resident’s biggest complaint. It would allow Oro Valley to retain ownership and control. It would allow Oro Valley to use those millions that were slotted for golf courses and use towards the Community Center."

We asked Mayor Hiremath about Chandler's offer. "We really don't have any details. We were too busy doing our due diligence. He had suggested that he had a concept but that was it."

In fairness to Mayor Hiremath, Chandler, though interested has never made a formal, bone fide offer. "I wrote a letter to the Mayor," Rick told us "and copied the Vice Mayor and all the council members. I offered to lease the entire golf course operation. I would be responsible for all maintenance and repairs, which according to the Town Managers budget, would save the town several millions of dollars not only in repairs but in loss revenue the first couple of years. The Mayor never responded to my offer or my email."

Rick's quest to turnaround the The El Conquistador Country Club is not new.

"We tried to purchase it two years ago from previous owner. The previous owner was doing exactly what the town is planning on doing. They too hired what they thought, was their “knight in shining armor." They hired an even more respected company [than Troon], Hilton Worldwide! What makes the town think Troon can do something Hilton couldn’t? It’s the same business model!"

According to Chandler, the offer to the previous owner crumbled because of that Hilton contract. The previous owner was not only losing millions of dollars every year, they were hand cuffed by the Hilton management company.

"My group was very serious. So serious that we were on the court house steps and were going to purchase the entire operation, then from MetLife when at the last minute they chose to take it back themselves. We offered them considerably more money than HSL and still today don't understand why our offer was not considered."

Chandler's group included himself, a large hotel company out of New York, and the former President of Canyon Ranch.  He had gathered a team of experts in the golf business: A former PGA director and general manager of a couple Arizona golf courses, one of the best golf course superintendents, a head golf course mechanic; food and beverage manager and a special event coordinator.

The Chandler offer would allow Oro Valley to stay in control yet get out of the golf business. "I basically offered to donate $3 millions dollars to Oro Valley and take them out of the golf business starting day one." Oro Valley would still have ownership of the 340 acres.

Chandler asserts that only Council Member's Burns, Garner and  Zinkin followed up on his email. "The loved the idea" of a leasing structure, noted Chandler.

The other council members never followed up.  Rick as a bit surprised.  His former company, Baja Spas, was the first Oro Valley company to work with Council Member Snider on Ironwood High School's "Project Graduation."  His company gave the program legitimacy such that other Oro Valley companies would help.  His reaction to Snider's non response to his email: "Wow!"

HSL has contracted with Troon for 5 years to manage the facility. Oro Valley will inherit this contract as part of the purchase.
Rick Chandler is a native Tucsonan and a long-time Oro Valley resident. He was founder and owner of Baja Spas.

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