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WCI selling three golf courses; Sun City Center has first shot

SUN CITY CENTER — The Sun City Center community association's board of directors has less than a month to decide whether to buy golf courses recently put on the market by WCI Communities Inc.

WCI informed the association of its plans to sell the North Course, Sandpiper and Caloosa Greens executive course in a letter last week, said John Luper, WCI's regional general manager of amenities.

The total asking price for the package of three courses is $3.9 million, Luper said.

WCI, the developer that built much of Sun City Center and operates its golf courses, filed for bankruptcy last fall. Earlier this year, the community's board adopted a plan to try to stimulate use — and profitability — of the North Course to prevent its closure by WCI as the company restructures its debt.

Now, under a 1984 agreement, the board has 30 days to respond to WCI's letter. That's because the agreement granted the community right-of-first-refusal on two of the courses.

WCI's decision to sell the courses did not come as a surprise to community leaders.

"It's what I expected," said Ed Barnes, president of the community association board.

Earlier this year, the board accepted proposals from 16 consultants on what they would charge to study the value and operating costs of all three courses. But the board decided in the spring to hold off on the study and concentrate on increasing profitability at North Course by opening it up to the general public.

Barnes said this week he did not know if the board would attempt to resurrect the study in light of WCI's plan to sell the courses.

"We really haven't had a chance to review and assess the problem yet," Barnes said.

While community members feared the closure of the courses and potential negative effects on adjacent property values, Barnes said a sale was not the end of the world.

"The best thing that could happen for us is that someone, a good golf course operator, could buy them and turn them into profitable situations," Barnes said.

At this point, there are no plans to sell WCI's other golf courses in the community, including the 18-hole course at Club Renaissance and the 63 holes in Kings Point, Luper said.

WCI has property still left to develop in both of those areas, Luper said. The company expects to complete bankruptcy restructuring by the end of August, he added.

Luper predicted that potential buyers of the three golf courses would find the asking price reasonable, considering that the price tag in 1984 on just the North Course was $1.6 million.

However, the problem with golf courses, he added, was not the initial cost, but keeping them running and profitable.

Saundra Amrhein can be reached at amrhein@sptimes.com or (813) 661-2441.

WCI selling three golf courses; Sun City Center has first shot 07/23/09 [Last modified: Thursday, July 23, 2009 5:30am]

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