Chamisa Hills Country Club could have a new owner by early spring, ending months of uncertainty over the fate of the 40-plus-year-old golf course and related properties.
Rio Rancho businessman Bob Gallagher said he and Jhett Browne, owner of the Farmers Market stores in Albuquerque, signed a purchase agreement Monday night with Chamisa owner Harry Apodaca. Browne would be the majority stockholder, Gallagher said.
Gallagher said Chamisa Hills would come under ownership of The Club at Rio Rancho Inc. and would be renamed The Club at Rio Rancho. It would operate as a semi-private facility.
A message left for Apodaca was not immediately returned Tuesday.
Gallagher declined to disclose the purchase price, but said the financing has been approved. The parties hope to close by May 1. Gallagher said the timing is crucial in order to begin work on the course, which has fallen into disrepair over the years, early in the growing season.
“It’s a complete asset purchase,” he said. “All the tangible property and assets of Chamisa Hills will come under the Club of Rio Rancho.”
He said the buyers hope to negotiate a new rate for recycled water with the city before the current contract with the club expires July 1 and rates shoot up from 47 cents per thousand gallons to $3.28 per thousand gallons. He said he submitted a proposal for reuse rates to City Manager Keith Riesberg early Tuesday morning.
“There are no contingencies in our signed agreement, and there are no contingencies from Mr. Apodaca,” he said. “But we’ve made it very clear to anybody we’ve talked to that we believe economically it is not feasible to own or operate that club if you had that type of rate for the reused water.”
The purchase would include the 240-acre Chamisa Hills site, three 9-hole golf courses, restaurant and lounge, swimming pool and related facilities, and six lighted tennis courts. Gallagher said it is too early to say if the nine holes known as Trevino North will be restored.
“I will tell you we are concerned,” Gallagher said. “There has not been water on that nine holes since last July. Over 200 sprinkler heads have been removed and, in fact, some of the pipes have been removed.”
He added, “We will not do anything to that piece of property that would cause adjacent and contiguous homeowners to lose value on their property.”
He said remaining 18 holes would be revitalized and there are plans to provide a “very upscale, affordable” restaurant experience.
Gallagher said there will be a major effort to increase membership, which has fallen from 600 or so to 148. There are also plans to increase public accessibility, which he said is “part of our proposal to the city in exchange for getting ‘X’ rate for water.”
Announcement of the purchase precedes an expected vote by the Rio Rancho Governing Body tonight on Councilor Tim Crum’s resolution stating the city’s willingness to consider proposals for a special contract rate for recycled water if a buyer comes forward, improves the club and expands access to the public.
The rates were a key issue for prospective buyer Michael Schumacher, who announced intentions to purchase the course last summer. He pulled out of the deal while working toward an agreement for reduced rates, citing “unpalatable” contract amendments, a “difficult seller” and a “less-than-receptive governing body.”
Crum’s resolution is “spot on,” Gallagher said. “I think it says what the overwhelming majority of citizens in Rio Rancho are saying, and that is, ‘We’ve got to find a way someone can own and operate and revitalize the country club in Rio Rancho.'”
Gallagher said he and Browne were introduced by a club member seven or eight weeks ago. They have since discovered both attended Annunciation Catholic School in Albuquerque, were on the same basketball team and played in the same neighborhoods with the same kids.