Businessman Ben duPont has announced plans to purchase his family’s namesake club in Wilmington, Del., putting to rest concerns about its redevelopment as housing. Planned updates to the facility include a new swimming pool, a 15,000-sq. ft. fitness facility, and a driving range that sits closer to the clubhouse, with work scheduled to begin this summer.
The unprofitable DuPont Country Club in Wilmington, Del., will be purchased by a DuPont family heir who said he will not build homes on the 525-acre property, Wilmington-based News Journal reported.
As C&RB reported in July 2017, the Dupont company put the 95-year-old, three-golf course country club up for sale—a move in line with company strategy to offload its non-core assets, the News Journal reported.
Yet, it also was one that sparked concerns from neighbors that the property would become a platform for another massive New Castle County development. The News Journal in 2015 reported that Woodlawn Trustees Inc. had quietly released deed restrictions that once prohibited development on roughly half of the property. The club sits along one of the state’s most tranquil landscapes, often referred to as the gateway to Delaware’s Chateau Country, the News Journal reported.
Now, worries that the character of the club and its surrounding area would be permanently altered by new homes likely will dissipate after DowDuPont announced that the facility will be purchased by Ben duPont and his business partner and longtime club member, Don Wirth, the News Journal reported.
“I look forward to rejoining the club,” said country club neighbor, Mike Clement, who has lived in the area for 17 years. “I didn’t want to look at another Toll Brothers (housing) development.”
While duPont said he will not develop the property into new residences, he does plan to give the facility an $18 million facelift. A new swimming pool, a 15,000-sq. ft. fitness facility, and a driving range that sits closer to the clubhouse are among planned additions. Construction is scheduled to begin this summer, the News Journal reported.
“I wanted to make sure (the club) was looked after,” he said. “I didn’t want an out-of-state private equity firm slicing and dicing it.”
DuPont is a partner at Wilmington-based Chartline Capital Partners, a venture capital company. Wirth is a retired DuPont vice president. The two formed a partnership for the exclusive purpose of purchasing the country club, the News Journal reported.
While the buyers have signed a binding letter of intent to purchase, the sale has not yet been finalized. The parties declined to disclose a purchase price, though it will be a “cash buy,” duPont said.
No public money will be used for the purchase or the upgrades, duPont said.
The DuPont Country Club today features three 18-hole golf courses, 25 tennis courts and a 113,000-sq. ft. clubhouse. The club has hosted multiple professional and amateur golf tournaments, including the LPGA Tour’s McDonald’s Championship between 1987 and 2004. It also is the site of the Brantwyn Estate, a mansion that hosts weddings and other events. The building is included in the sale, the News Journal reported.
But the club, like many others, has struggled to make money in recent years. After upgrades, the club will buck the trend, duPont said, in part by bringing in new members for family activities aside from a traditional 18 holes of golf. The club’s par-3 course will be downsized, the News Journal reported.
“I don’t see this as a country club. I want to transition this into an awesome, athletic and sports facility,” duPont said. “Nationally, there’s a big uptick in sports facilities.”
The planned upgrades, which duPont called “a little tender loving care,” will help the club hit a target membership of 3,000, up from the current 1,700, he said. The DuPont company was not an optimal owner for the club, which had languished for years, duPont said.
It sits in an ideal location, near thousands of employees at AstraZeneca and J.P. Morgan Chase. Club dues and fees will not be raised until at least 2019, duPont said. A basic monthly membership today is $94, the News Journal reported.
“This announcement represents an ideal outcome for the DuPont Country Club and the local community,” DowDuPont CEO Edward D. Breen said in a statement. “DuPont has maintained our commitment to identifying a community-minded buyer to continue to operate the facility as a club without residential development.”
Delaware Sen. Greg Lavelle, R-Sharpley, grew up in a house across the street from the club’s 5th tee. He called the impending purchase “the best possible outcome I could have imagined.”