The property in Anaconda, Mont. with a Jack Nicklaus-designed course, which sits atop a Superfund cleanup site, needs a line of credit extension from Atlantic Richfield to avoid a permanent shutdown at the end of October. ARCO and its parent, BP America, contend that it’s time for the course to become self-sufficient.
Without a cash infusion from Atlantic Richfield (ARCO), the Old Works Golf Course in Anaconda, Mont. may close permanently at the end of this month, the Helena (Mont.) Independent Record reported.
The Jack Nicklaus-designed Old Works course, a 17-year-old facility that serves as a “protective cap” on top of waste from Anaconda’s first smelting location, says it desperately needs an extended line of credit from Atlantic Richfield, the Independent Record reported.
C&RB reported on efforts to obtain the line of credit in September 2014 (http://clubandresortbusiness.com/2014/09/24/old-works-gc-seeks-credit-line-global-settlement-reached/)
“In general we’re all hoping that between the county, Atlantic Richfield and the [Environmental Protection Agency], everyone will recognize that we can’t let the golf course fail during the global settlement negotiations,” Carl Nyman, Superfund Coordinator for Anaconda-Deer Lodge County, told the Independent Record.
The golf course’s authority board rejected a preliminary financing offer from ARCO because of the worry that the course will not be able to pay down the debt already owed, the Independent Record reported. The course received a $300,000 line of credit in 2011, which has accrued $28,000 in interest. The offer of additional credit was made pending repayment of the total loan.
At the authority board’s meeting on October 15, members voted to close the course and lay off the three full-time, year-round employees unless ARCO agrees to release a $100,000 contingency fund to the course, plus an unspecified additional amount of at least $10,000, the Independent Record reported.
The contingency fund is kept separately from the course’s main bank account. It was meant for an emergency situation, if the Superfund remedy was in some way compromised.
“If the golf course closes, it will drastically change the global settlement negotiations,” Nyman said. “It’s not just business as usual. We view the golf course as the keystone of redevelopment. The golf course was going to generate the revenue and the impetus for redevelopment. If that vision is to continue, it’s important the golf course continues.”
Connie Ternes-Daniels, Anaconda-Deer Lodge County Chief Executive, said that the authority board made its decision based on budgeting, the Independent Record reported.
“The golf course authority board made the decision to close because they’re running out of money,” she said. “The night they made the decision there was $100,000 in cash to take care of outstanding bills and to get them through the end of the month. I think the authority board is backed into a corner, as is the county. What are you going to do if you can’t make payroll?”
If the course does close, Ternes-Daniels said, she will be at the forefront demanding that ARCO remove the waste that is left in place beneath the course.
“That was the agreed-upon remedy. If something were to happen to the golf course and the remedy is no longer there, it needs to be cleaned up,” she said. “I don’t believe for one minute this community would have accepted that much waste left in place [without the existence of the golf course]. We expected a much more thorough cleanup.”
In a statement from BP, Atlantic Richfield’s parent company, an official wrote that the course has to become self-sustaining and cannot continually rely on lines of credit, the Independent Record reported.
“Nearly 20 years ago, Atlantic Richfield Company constructed a Jack Nicklaus-designed golf course, one of the top public courses in the country, and donated it to the community,” wrote Jason Ryan, a press officer with BP America, in an e-mail to The Montana Standard on October 16.
“Unfortunately, we understand from the county that the course has not become self-sustaining,” Ryan’s e-mail continued. “Since that donation, we have provided additional funding of over $700,000 to keep the course open. It is essential for the course to become self-sustaining, and not a continual obligation for either Atlantic Richfield or Anaconda-Deer Lodge County.”
But Ternes-Daniels said the golf course wouldn’t be in the position it’s in if ARCO and BP weren’t dragging out the Superfund settlement agreement with the county, the Independent Record reported.
“Atlantic Richfield is the hang-up. They’re not coming through with the final settlements to make our community whole,” she said. “I don’t know if it’s problems [BP has] had in the Gulf [of Mexico] or what. We never anticipated it to go on this long, and I don’t think they anticipated it taken this long. The fact remains there are responsibilities that need to be met.”
Ryan’s statement about BP’s obligations went so far as to suggest that perhaps the era of the golf course is over, if the authority board determines it is unwilling to repay the outstanding loan, the Independent Record reported.
“We offered to provide an additional loan to keep the course open for another season, provided that they begin to develop a business plan laying out a path for the course to become self-sustaining,” he wrote. “Given the response to that offer, we are willing to make an additional offer to defer repayment of that loan and extend the time for repayment until they implement that plan for success.
“Or, if they find the course is not viable, we will forgive the loan and the current line of credit, and work with the County and the EPA on developing an alternative use for the property consistent with the remedy,” Ryan said.
But though cutting its losses might make the best financial sense for the golf course, Anaconda will be sure to feel the repercussions of that decision for years to come, the Independent Record reported.
“The loss of that course would be devastating for everybody,” Ternes-Daniels said. “It would be a huge economic impact if something were to happen to the course. The Old Works Golf Course is the flagship of remediation in Anaconda-Deer Lodge County. It needs to remain as such. It’s the duty of EPA, ARCO and us to make sure it does continue.”