By Kendra Marr
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, September 16, 2008
The Presidential golf club, which opened in Loudoun County in May, apparently closed yesterday after more than a dozen unpaid contractors had filed liens on the property.
Some companies working on the $40 million first phase of the Dulles golf club, which included a clubhouse, golf academy, driving range, restaurant, pro shop and an 18-hole course, said they have not been paid since April. To date, these contractors have filed $3.4 million in liens in Loudoun County Circuit Court.
Eric R. Wells and Scott Stephens, president and vice president of The Presidential, didn't return numerous messages left yesterday. A telephone message told the public, "Unfortunately our facility is closed until further notice. We apologize for the inconvenience. Thank you."
In a statement, landowners Beaumeade Associates and North Dulles Retail Associates -- owned equally by The Tower Companies and Lerner Enterprises -- said they were notified over the weekend that The Presidential's debt, including past-due rent payments, would not be paid and that the club would be going out of business and abandoning the property on Monday.
Billed as a boardroom with a golf course, The Presidential aimed to be an exclusive retreat for corporate businessmen to network and entertain clients. Membership was capped at 150 companies, each paying $60,000 a year for employees and clients to use the golf course and clubhouse on Waxpool Road, east of Loudoun County Parkway. It also attracted a number of big names, such as Bill Dean, president and chief executive officer of M.C. Dean, and former Washington Redskins player Darrell Green, as investors.
A second phase, with an additional nine holes and other amenities, was planned to be added by 2010 at a cost of $30 million.
Contractors vow that they'll continue to fight the club for payment.
"The contractors are not going away," said Joe Andronaco, president of USA Technology Services in Vienna. "I got calls about this all morning."
In June, Andronaco sent the club a slew of e-mails asking when his crew would be paid for electrical work.
"In the hopes of under promising and over performing I guess you can tell them payment [is] expected the week of [the] 30th," wrote back Rob Wagoner, development director for WestDulles Properties, Wells' company. "I hope to have it sooner than that, but we don't have any promises."
Today's marketplace has not been kind to golf. In 1999, 509 courses opened in the United States, compared with just 113 in 2007, according to the National Golf Foundation. More golf courses have closed in the past two years than have opened, according to foundation data.
And golf professionals had theorized that opening a ritzy, corporate-only course during an economic decline, as employers are cutting back on benefits, might be difficult.
From its inception, the club has had trouble with financing.
In 1999, the landowners leased 200 acres to The Presidential to build the facility, provided that they would have no responsibility for obligations or expenses. Wells signed on to the project.
A year later, he left, handing over completion to his partner. But planning and financing never got off the ground.
Wells returned and rewrote the lease in 2005, proposing a corporate-only membership structure and facility redesign. He recruited the Jack Nicklaus Academy of Golf and created large boardrooms equipped with WiFi and video-conferencing.
Yet, no work began on the golf course. So last year, the landowners terminated the lease for failure to pay rent or build a golf course.
But in October 2007, Wells negotiated another lease with a fourth tenant, Presidential Golf Partners. The new tenant agreed to pay all unpaid contractors, rent and complete construction, according to the landowners.
But payments were not met and the lease once again was canceled in August, the landowners said.