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Local group buys Pasadena yacht club

A group of local investors, including some residents, has bought the Pasadena Yacht and Country Club for $7-million. The new owners plan to renovate various parts of the property.

By AMY WIMMER

© St. Petersburg Times, published April 12, 2000


GULFPORT -- After months of uncertainty over who would purchase the Pasadena Yacht and Country Club and what the new owner would plan for the golf course and marina, a group of local investors has closed on the property.

Most of the 10 partners live within the development. The $7-million selling price includes the 135-acre golf course, the clubhouse, a 65-slip marina and a smaller marina.

"Since most of us are residents here, we were very concerned about the future of the country club because it is such an integral part of Pasadena Yacht and Country Club communities," said Bruce Baldwin, managing partner of the investment group, Pasadena Yacht and Country Club Development LC. "We wanted to preserve the integrity of the club. We wanted to attract new members and make the club a better place."

Baldwin and his partners purchased the country club property from USX Corp., which has also offered to sell a 3.18-acre parcel of land at the development's Gulfport Boulevard entrance. Jon Dunn, a regional corporate manager with USX, could not be reached to comment on the status of that property.

USX Corp., which had previously declined to reveal its asking price for the golf course and marina, with its 60 acres of submerged land, had hoped to receive $7.5-million, Baldwin said.

Baldwin declined to name the other partners, saying they prefer not to be identified because they do not want club members bringing minuscule problems at the club to them. The only associate named with Baldwin in state corporate records is Dale Johnson.

The new owners have big plans for owning their own country club and will be moving on renovations, some of which are scheduled to take place this year.

They plan to add 22 boat slips, a project expected to cost $300,000. They plan to replace the asphalt cart paths at the golf course with new concrete paths, which should cost about $350,000.

They also hope to renovate the pool bar and grill area, adding awnings and new furniture at a cost of $50,000. They want to install a new sprinkler system, estimated to cost about $500,000. Eventually, perhaps in 2001 or 2002, they also plan a $1-million expansion of the existing clubhouse.

"We have acquired a quality property here," Baldwin said. "The course is in good shape, the clubhouse is relatively new and just went through major renovation. The marinas are in good repair, so we are starting with a very good product, but it is our anticipation to increase the nature of the project over here."

The purchase of the clubhouse by some of its own has appeased the concerns of a group of residents who petitioned the Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Court in September 1999 to keep the club private, said John Bartholomae, president of the Pasadena Yacht and Country Club Council.

"They sound good. I know the new owners, most of them, and it sounds like they really want to keep it as a private club," Bartholomae said.

The council, an umbrella organization that represents the homeowners groups and golf associations that are members of the club, was concerned that new owners could open the doors to non-members. Some residents paid USX as much as $17,500 for lifetime memberships in the private club.

Before moving forward with plans to purchase the property, the investors worked out a use agreement with the council. According to the agreement, members have priority to use the golf course, and the owner can "sell" about 55,000 tee times each year to outside groups that want to play the course.

"We'll have to see what happens," Bartholomae said. "Hopefully they'll run it, and they'll keep up the agreement."

USX Corp., a division of United States Steel Corp., bought the family-owned golf course in 1981. The company planned an expanse of condominiums, retail shops and condominiums. Zoning battles with the county, which controlled the development until Gulfport annexed it, led USX to change its plans and build luxury homes instead.

Baldwin said a primary goal of the investors is to increase membership at the club. Only about 25 percent of residents in the Pasadena Yacht and Country Club community belong to the club. Baldwin said those numbers add up to a "tremendous potential" for growth in the membership roster.

"We believe that a member- and investor-owned club will attract those people," Baldwin said. "We did not want a large chain coming in . .. and running the club as one of many."

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