A diamond in the rough

Little Crow Country Club

NEW LONDON—Two tax abatement hearings are scheduled for next month on a proposed $7.8 million project to build a hotel, event center, restaurant and new pro shop at the Little Crow Country Club near New London.

A hearing will be Oct. 4 during the meeting of the Kandiyohi County Board of Commissioners, when a request for a 10-year county tax abatement totaling $750,812 will be reviewed.

The New London-Spicer School Board will conduct a similar hearing Oct. 10 on a request to abate $272,882 in taxes over the 10-year period.

Pending results of the $1 million abatement requests—as well as county action on a conditional use permit, agreements between the country club and developers for a land sale and financing and then a final vote by the club’s board of directors—construction could begin by the end of October.

The goal is to have most of the project completed in time for the golf season next spring.

The project had been in the wishful-thinking stage for about three years but grew feet last fall after members of the Little Crow Country Club voted to authorize the board of directors to pursue an expansion project on the grounds of the 27-hole golf course.

A redevelopment committee researched numerous options for partnerships, financing and building layout plans.

Pieces of the complex deal solidified this summer, and although it’s not a “done deal yet,” the list of remaining hurdles is diminishing, said Dean Lindquist, chairman of the redevelopment committee.

The initial vote of the club’s membership gave the committee the vote of confidence it needed to pursue a project that would be in the “best interest” of the Little Crow Country Club.

Lindquist said a variety of partners, developers, potential management firms and local volunteers have stepped forward to provide the ideas, expertise and funding for the project to proceed.

“It’s so cool how it’s working out,” he said. “But nothing is signed on the bottom line yet, and there won’t be until all the pieces are put together.”

The current plan includes construction of a 51-room GrandStay Hotel & Suites and a 300-seat event center owned by developers with Glacial Ridge Hospitality LLC and built on the edge of the golf course on land purchased from the country club.

In exchange, the developers will build a new restaurant and pro shop for the country club to replace the outdated facilities that are not in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, Lindquist said.

The expansion could make the golf course a “premier destination,” said Aaron Backman, director of the Kandiyohi County and City of Willmar Economic Development Commission, during a meeting before the NLS School Board.

Three years ago the EDC completed a feasibility study that determined that the New London area lacked hotel rooms and a large event-center space.

Located on state Highway 23 and surrounded by the golf course grounds, the new facilities would be a community asset, Backman said. “It’s a diamond in the rough—no pun intended,” he said.

Even though a new hotel is currently under construction four miles down the road in Spicer, Backman said the golf course project is different because it also includes an event center that could attract a “different niche” of customers, including business meetings and wedding receptions.

The NLS prom, currently held at a restaurant in Willmar, could be held closer to home if the event center is built, Backman said. The hotel could also make it easier for NLS to host tournaments that draw people from out of town.

“This could be a blessing for the school system,” Backman said.

With an estimated $5.6 million in new construction and an addition of 35 jobs once the facilities are completed, Backman said tax abatements by the county and school district would be an “opportunity to encourage investment” in the community.

Robert Moller, chairman of the NLS School Board, said the school district has traditionally supported tax abatement requests.

Because current tax revenues the country club generates will not be affected, and because new construction will bring new tax revenues to the district after the abatement expires and could bring new families to the community, NLS has looked favorably at abatement requests in the past.

Tax abatements are being requested only from the county and school district. The country club is located in New London Township, but Backman said a property tax abatement is not being requested of the township.

West Central Tribune by Carolyn Lange

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