Mill Creek members raise $4 million

  • By Rich Myhre / Herald Writer
  • Wednesday, May 30, 2007 9:00pm
  • Sports

MILL CREEK – Members at Mill Creek Country Club have apparently taken a big step, and perhaps the biggest step, toward the purchase of their private golf club from Trajal USA, Inc.

According to Barney Dotson, president of the Mill Creek Country Club Association and chair of the club’s purchase committee, roughly $4 million of the $5.2 million sale price has been raised, or about $1 million more than the members’ initial fundraising goal.

Though approximately $1.2 million will have to be financed through a bank loan, members have pooled enough money to proceed with the purchase, Dotson said.

The money raised is “long beyond what people felt we would accomplish,” Dotson said. “I was sitting here worrying about raising $3 million, and we’re at $4 million. So now we can safely buy the club.

“We have a lot of work ahead of us, but we’re all excited and thrilled. We have to wait a few more weeks to get this under our belts … but I’m very confident that we’re home.”

Since opening in 1976, Mill Creek CC has been owned by private entities. First, by United Development Corporation (UDC), the original developer of the entire Mill Creek planned development community, and later by Trajal, which bought the golf course and adjacent tennis club from UDC in 2001.

Under the initial agreement with UDC, members had the first option to buy the club if it was ever up for sale. Some members pushed to buy the club when it was on the market in 2001, but the effort fell short and Trajal went ahead with the purchase.

But when Trajal announced its intention to sell in 2006, Mill Creek’s membership decided the time was right.

The process, though, was not without a few bumps. A dispute about the sales price ended up in court and there was other legal wranglings along the way, but a purchase-sale agreement with Trajal was reached in March and members began raising the necessary money.

Under Trajal, Mill Creek members owned nothing but the privilege of playing on the course. They now have the option to convert to $25,000 equity memberships, less the cost of their initial initiation fees. Most private golf clubs in the greater Seattle area are equity clubs (meaning members are the actual owners), including nearby Everett Golf and Country Club.

Dotson said roughly half the current members will convert to equity memberships, and another 25 equity memberships have been sold to new members.

Club members who do not convert can retain their current memberships (which include monthly dues that all members pay), but will not own shares in the facilities, Dotson said.

The target for equity memberships is 400, he added, though it may be some time before that figure is reached.

Dotson said he hopes to see the sale closed by the end of June, though the actual deadline is near the end of July.

There are still several issues to address, he went on. Among them, the club must get financing for the balance of the purchase price, complete articles for incorporation, hire an accounting firm, file paperwork to be a social non-profit organization, and hire a general manager.

“There’s a lot of paperwork that has to get done,” Dotson acknowledged, “but we’ll get it done in due time. … The path is clear for us. I don’t see anything that’s going to cause us to not to close.”

Garry Loncon, treasurer of the Mill Creek board and a member of the purchase committee, said the enthusiasm for equity memberships “has exceeded our expectations.”

“Maybe,” he said, “it goes to the fact that there is a willing audience out there that wants to participate in a proprietary-owned country club of the stature of Mill Creek.”

To this point, Loncon added, members have not had a real say in issues related to their golf club. But now decisions about such matters as operation and maintenance “will all be in the members’ hands. … We will now have a direct voice in how the facility is managed.”

Also, members will now be able to boast about their club with a little more pride – call it the pride of ownership.

“I think we have one of the nicest tracts in the Northwest,” Dotson said. “You never get tired of playing Mill Creek, and I’ve been a member here since 1982. It’s not one of the longest courses around, but it’s a very challenging course.”

Noted golf course architect Ted Robinson – his other designs in the Seattle area include Redmond’s Sahalee Country Club and Kent’s Meridian Valley Country Club – did “a fantastic job designing the course,” Dotson said. “His courses are a pleasure to play.”

Once the sale goes through, he added, “We think we’re going to be offering people in south Snohomish County the opportunity to be at one of the finest private country clubs in the Seattle area.”

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