|
|
Examiner
  • Longtime member rescues club from foreclosure

  • In the complicated world of operating a country club, it helps to have a member that is willing to go the extra mile.

    • email print
  • In the complicated world of operating a country club, it helps to have a member that is willing to go the extra mile.
    Ralph Hembree went miles beyond what was expected of him when, faced with seeing his beloved Country Club of Blue Springs change hands into an uncertain future, he swept down and, well, saved it.
    At least, that’s how some – probably most – see it.
    “For the last two, three years there were many problems,” Hembree, 74, said recently from inside the club.
    Not surprisingly, many of those problems were economy related. In 1969, shortly after the course was built by Colonel John Davis on 115 acres, nine local men formed the corporation known as the Blue Springs Country Club. They purchased the facility, which at the time had approximately 400 members. That was in 1972.
    Membership reached its highest number in 2000 when 475 called the club a second home. The facility offered an 18-hole golf course, clubhouse amenities, fine dining, a swimming pool and other offerings. When the economy started to sour about 2008, members began scaling back their lifestyles, and many dropped out of the club, which has average monthly dues of about $200.
    The club began falling behind on debt and bills, eventually defaulting on a note secured by the real estate. A member, Logan Sousley, purchased the bank note on the property, and the facility and its surrounding grounds were put into foreclosure.
    That was 2011.
    Hembree, who has made the Kansas City metro area his home since he moved here in 1969, watched it all unfolding in front of him. The club’s future was uncertain.
    “By its very nature, the club couldn’t respond quick enough to be competitive,” he said.
    Phyllis Embree, a longtime member, said the club’s difficulties were painful to witness. The rumors of what would happen to it were also difficult to hear.
    “Always rumors – someone’s going to buy it, it’s going to be torn down and apartment buildings put up, or maybe made into a public club,” she said. “We didn’t know what was going to happen.”
    Embree lives on the course. While she and her husband haven’t always lived there, it’s become the site of some of their most cherished memories.
    “We have a view of the course, and it’s wonderful to watch the golfers,” she said. “I don’t golf myself, not anymore, but it’s still something I love watching. It was difficult not knowing what was going to happen.”
    Hembree knew Sousley. In fact, Hembree knew many people from the work he did in the late 1960s, building the cable television system in the metropolitan area. He has lived in Independence and  Lee’s Summit, but Blue Springs, and the club he joined in 1993, had become a second home.
    Page 2 of 2 - “A lot of people think country clubs are for snooty people, but the people here are much different,” he said. “A blue collar place.”
    Hembree, who owns Summit Investment Group, bid on the property and purchased it for about $1.2 million. Hembree said the “target date” for completing the transition is Dec. 31, but that’s not etched in stone.
    “The club is indebted to Logan Sousley for allowing it to happen,” Hembree said, adding:  “I just couldn’t watch it happen. I didn’t want it to become a public course. I wanted to keep it private. I think most felt that way.”
    So now what? On Tuesday, Hembree was in lock step with several responsibilities that needed addressed.
    “It’s been a bit overwhelming, but I’m managing,” he said. “There’s much to do. Luckily I’ve been familiar for a number of years with the club’s operations, and I know its financials.”
    Since the transfer, members have been clamoring for some news. For instance, what will remain and what will go? Hembree admits to being in the beginning stages of changes, but there are some certainties: fine dining will be replaced with a grill and bar and the pool, one of the most expensive features at the facility, will be evaluated.
    Incentives to current members, including no due increases for the approaching year, will be offered, and former members (to a specific year) will be permitted to rejoin without initiation fees. Staff will remain at current levels and, eventually, a management team will be brought in.
    And like all clubs that cater to the middle age and older age groups, Hembree said there will be a concerted focus on attracting younger members through mailings and promotions. He also plans on hiring a new club golf pro.
    Improvements to the facility and grounds are anticipated, too, Hembree said, costing as much as $300,000. The last major improvement was to the greens about nine years ago.
    The name also will change. At its founding, it was named the Blue Springs Country Club. In 1983, the name was changed to the Country Club of Blue Springs, which it is known as today. The name will revert to its original soon, Hembree said.
    Maybe just in time for the club’s 40th Anniversary?
    For more information, visit www.countryclubofbluesprings.com.

        calendar