No bids offered at Laurel Valley Golf Course auction
By Robert Norris | (email@example.com)
Players — or nonplayers, actually — drove the fate of Laurel Valley Golf Course from the auction room to the negotiation table Thursday.
About 70 people showed up for the auction held on the top floor at the Laurel Valley clubhouse above Townsend, but no bids were offered for the 141-acre, 18-hole, par 70 course.
Auctioneer Lanny Thomas, of J.P. King Auction Co., said the cost to replace the golf course would be in the $4.5-$5 million range.
“Who’ll give me a starting bid of $3 million, and let’s go,” Thomas said before going into his auctioneer’s cry. “Three, three, three, what do ya say? Three, three, three. Three million now to buy. Give me three million for it.”
“Who’ll give two-and-a-half? Two million five hundred thousand?”
The asking bid dropped to $2 million. The ownership, Laurel Valley Conservation LLC — among them Jay Crippen, Richard Anderson, Chad Rochelle, Dr. Clem and Shala Block — had set a confidential reserve. No bid below that reserve price would be accepted.
“We’ve got folks lookin’. I’ll tell you what, ladies and gentlemen, we had people looking who are actually in the room,” Thomas continued.
For whatever reason, those lookers had not signed up as bidders before the auction.
“Who will open the bidding at two million? What do ya say? Are you able to buy now?”
No bidders at $2 million.
“All right, ladies and gentlemen,” Thomas said. “We are going to go into a negotiating scenario. In the meantime, we have some folks we’re going to talk to. I want to let you know that we have some people who are interested.
“We have already been talking to them. There’s folks who are trying to put a group together. We have about two or three other individuals that we’re talking to, and then we have a lot of contacts that we’ll be making that we’ve run across in this process,” Thomas said.
“We will continue taking offers over the next 90 days or so, and within that time I would imagine that you’ll probably hear an announcement that this property will be sold. That is not unusual in this process.”
It was emphasized that Laurel Valley is a turnkey operation, ready for a new owner to open for business immediately.
After the close of the auction, Anderson said that with the upgrade of the clubhouse and other facilities, a relatively small investment would bring the course to another level.
“You can run it just the way it is,” Anderson said.
But if a new owner wanted to kick it up a notch: “You don’t really need for somebody to put in maybe 300 grand in the course. Mostly cosmetic stuff. It would be one of the nicest courses in Tennessee. It’s already beautiful.”
Rochelle said he wasn’t shocked that nobody bid, but he wouldn’t have been shocked if someone had jumped in at the high end because of the true value of the course.
“It’s the economic climate that we’re in. ... It sounds like it’s going to be a process.”
Rochelle said the traffic count through Townsend is not the problem, although he said that minimal signage — indicators to tourists that the course exists — is a detriment.
He has no doubts that most local people want the golf course to succeed.
“I think the majority of the people down here feel the same way. But it’s just tricky times to make major changes in financial structures of neighborhoods and communities,” he said, noting that there are more than 500 lots in Laurel Valley.
Crippen had hoped for a successful auction.
“We’re disappointed. Our main goal initially was to get the neighborhood involved. We just have not been successful with that.”
He has not given up on reaching some accommodation with Laurel Valley residential property owners that would preserve the golf course.
“We’re still negotiating with them a little bit,” Crippen said.
Otherwise, there’s still J.B. King Auction’s efforts.
“They’ve still got a couple of good prospects,” Crippen said.
Anderson indicated that the auction, while unsuccessful so far, may turn out to be a game changer.
“I think we’re finally getting people’s attention,” Anderson said. “ I hope so, anyway.”