Dracut, Mass. — With only four other registered bidders and an unusual ownership situation complicating the sale, the bank holding the reported $3.5 million mortgage on Meadow Creek Golf Club bought back the financially ailing course for $2.309 million at a foreclosure auction on Tuesday.
Salem, N.H.-based Bank of New England made the fourth, and winning, bid on a wet and gloomy morning that mirrored the emotions of former owner Jeff Brem and those of many in the overflow gallery of some 80 onlookers crowded into the club’s former pro shop.
“It is [a tough day],” Brem told us before the proceedings began. An engineer with offices in Westford, Mass., and Salem, N.H., Brem’s problems began when he defaulted on a reported $100,000 lease payment to Realty Financial Partners of Wellesley, the company that holds title to the parking lot, clubhouse, and restaurant.
Roger Jarek, a member since 2008, echoed Brem’s sentiments.
“We’ve been scrambling and playing anywhere and everywhere,” Jarek said about a group of former Meadow Creekers who’ve taken their sticks to other local courses like Acton’s Quail Ridge CC and Green Meadow GC in Hudson, N.H. “We loved it here. If it was open without the clubhouse, we would be playing here and I would [still] be a member.”
The recent history of Meadow Creek is a tumultuous one, involving a myriad of financial and legal issues. In addition to RFP barricading the parking lot, the club has experienced a cease-and-desist order from the Town of Dracut, Brem’s attempt to rework the first hole into a shorter fairway and makeshift parking lot, and, finally, closure by court order.
Given such vicissitudes, it was hardly surprising that the sale attracted few would-be buyers or that the bank bought it back for so little.
“It was not a standard foreclosure,” auctioneer Justin Manning said afterward, noting that foreclosures normally wipe out existing leases. The uniqueness of the Meadow Creek-RFP arrangement — which precluded Manning from selling the clubhouse, parking lot, and restaurant as part of the auction package — impeded the situation.
“Without having everything arranged ahead of time with the group that has the lease and built the clubhouse and parking lot [presented] uncertainties that [prospective purchasers] couldn’t get around,” Manning said.
If the auction included all the entities involved in most sales of this type, the bank’s acquisition “would be an absolute steal,” said Manning. “But that’s not what you’re buying. You’re buying the land that represents the fairways and greens, and that’s it.”
Manning knows whereof he speaks, since he has presided over several golf course auctions in the past few years. In 2010 alone, his firm sold Pleasant Valley CC for $5 million, Sterling National CC for $4.2 million, and The Georgetown Club (now Black Swan CC), for $3.2 million.
Manning, by the way, offered a grim forecast for the golf course industry, telling us to expect several more foreclosure auctions in the near future.
In the meantime, what happens now to the 18-hole course is anybody’s guess, since Bank of New England representatives refused to speak with reporters and RFP executives have not responded to numerous requests for comments.
“It will open as quickly as the two groups [Bank of New England and RFP] make nice with each other,” said Manning, who could not assert that the property would remain a golf course. “There’s no guarantee.”
A bleak outlook on a dreary day did nothing to cheer Christian Kaszuba, Meadow Creek’s superintendent for five years. While bank representatives asked his advice about what they had to do to maintain the course, they offered no assurances that Kaszuba would get his job back should the course reopen.
“I’m not sure what the next step is,” Kaszuba said. “Hopefully the bank and everyone here can get together and we can maintain the course. It’s a beautiful track and it could be a jewel in the Merrimack Valley.
“It would be a shame to see it go,” Kaszuba added.