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SOLD: Country club has new owners

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country club entranceThe country club is sold.

Farmers Market store chain owner Jhett Browne signed closing paperwork Thursday to purchase Chamisa Hills Country Club, now Club Rio Rancho. Once he bought the club, he put it into a corporation in which he’s the majority shareholder and Rio Rancho businessman Robert Gallagher is the minority shareholder, Gallagher said in a phone interview.

“It is a done deal, and we are extremely excited,” he said.

The ailing club has been on the market for about a year. A potential buyer backed out of the sale last fall.

Gallagher said the duo had a 60-day improvement plan that would start immediately. Painters were scheduled to start on the clubhouse Saturday morning, Browne said at the Rio Rancho TIPS business networking meeting at the country club Thursday.

Now, the whole club is open to the public without restrictions, but as the new owners make improvements, they plan to incorporate special perks for club members.

Browne said the golf course would be open to the public in the afternoon and members only in the morning.

Gallagher said revitalization of the course would involve tens of thousands of dollars a month for at least eight months. The course will remain open during that time.

“There may be some minor disruptions on a few holes as we begin the process,” he said.

Gallagher and Browne intend to use significant amounts of organic treatments on the course. They also plan to remove 25 percent of the grass, cutting from places that aren’t being played, Gallagher said.

Browne said he hasn’t reached an agreement on water with the city, but he expects to get one because the governing body is working hard on it.

“I don’t believe they’re going to allow this place to die,” he said.

The golf course is currently irrigated with city reused water. However, Browne and Gallagher don’t believe the club would be profitable on the current recycled water fee schedule, and Browne said the salt, chlorine and high acidity in that water is killing the grass.

Browne wants to follow Councilor Chuck Wilkins’ suggestion to drill a private well, but city staff members have resisted.

City staff have said drilling another well in the golf course area, a high-producing part of the aquifer, would draw water away from city wells. Browne believes those concerns are unfounded.

For other club features, Gallagher expects to have the pool, complete with a bar and grill, open to members by Memorial Day, with several already-booked graduation parties happening there before. The public can rent the pool for special events, but otherwise it’s open to members only.

Gallagher said resurfacing of all six tennis courts is scheduled to start June 1, and the tennis academy should be in full swing by July 1.

Inside, the new owners plan for three restaurants: Jhett’s Fine Dining in the former banquet hall; Triple Play Bar and Grill, with a sports theme; and Bobby G’s restaurant and bar, which will include the only cigar bar in Rio Rancho or Albuquerque’s West Side, Gallagher said.

Jhett’s Fine Dining and Triple Play will be open to the public, while Bobby G’s will be mainly members-only.

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