ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — It’s taken a long time, amid much speculation, but now it’s official.
Chamisa Hills Golf Course and Country Club has a new owner and a new name: The Club at Rio Rancho.
Businessman Jhett Browne handed over a check for the property on Thursday, closing the deal with seller Harry Apodaca.
“It’s done. I own the thing now,” Browne said.
Browne is a majority stockholder in The Club. Bob Gallagher is the minority stockholder in the venture but will have no role in operations. Browne declined to reveal the purchase price but confirmed that rumors of “around $1 million” were close.
He outlined plans for the facility to a business group in Rio Rancho on Thursday morning. They include renovating the clubhouse to create a 220- to 250-seat fine dining restaurant and a 125-seat sports-themed bar and grill that will be open to the public. There are also plans for a members-only restaurant and cigar bar.
He’s also planning to have the tennis courts resurfaced and offer coaching programs.
The work will start immediately. Browne is aiming to have the amenities open seven days a week in July.
He also plans to spend $100,000 between now and October to improve the condition of the course.
Apodaca put the property in south central Rio Rancho on the market last May but got no bidders.
Browne, the owner of the Farmers Market produce stores in Albuquerque, and Rio Rancho businessman Gallagher have been pursuing a deal to purchase the property for several months.
Although the purchase is now complete, the issue of water rates and the fate of the long neglected North Nine section of the 27-hole facility is still unresolved.
Browne has talked to residents living around the North Nine to find a way of bringing in sufficient revenue – possibly through memberships – to cover costs without having to sell the land to a developer.
He is also hoping for an agreement with the city that will allow them to avoid a water rate increase in July.
Chamisa has been getting recycled water for irrigation at 47 cents per 1,000 gallons. That is set to jump to $3.28 per 1,000 on July 1.
Under the development agreement he has asked the city to consider, he would:
- Invest $1 million by July 1, 2017, to refurbish 18 of the facility’s 27 holes with water-thrifty landscaping;
- Create 50 full-time jobs with an annual payroll of $1.1 million;
- Open the restaurant and lounge facilities to the public; and
- Open the course to the public for specific weekday and weekend hours.
In return, he is asking the city to supply recycled water at 20 percent of the potable water rate in effect on June 30, 2014, or 99 cents per 1,000 gallons, for three years.
He’s also asking to lease up to 500-acre-feet of the city’s water rights to produce potable water at $648 per acre-foot of water produced in a calendar year.
The water rights would apply to a well in Rio Rancho that he would buy from the city, and the water would be used for course irrigation.
“We hope to get off city water,” Browne told the business group.
He said the recycled water is full of sodium, chlorides and other substances that damage the grass.
Browne has discussed the agreement with the city staff. City councilors discussed it in a closed meeting on April 21. City spokesman Peter Wells said the city will have to do “further review and due diligence.”