The Menomonee Falls, Wis. property was put up for sale by Waukesha County, which had operated it at annual losses for nearly 20 years and was facing the need for $645,000 in repairs. The new buyer, the Storm Family Group, has operated Milwaukee-area clubs and facilities for nearly 70 years and plans to create a “better version of Wanaki” while focusing initially on getting a liquor license, expanding the clubhouse and “doing a whole new level of food.”
The Wanaki Golf Course in Menomonee Falls, Wis. is being purchased by an affiliate of the Storm Family Group, a known entity in the Milwaukee-area golf industry, according to an announcement from Waukesha County, which owned the property, the Milwaukee Business Journal reported.
Waukesha County acquired the 150-acre property in 1967, and opened the golf course in 1970, the Business Journal reported. In 2019, however, the course was marked for closure after operating at a loss since 2001 (https://clubandresortbusiness.com/wanaki-gc-to-close-after-2019-season/).
Officials previously said the course needs over $645,000 in repairs and upgrades, and was operating at annual losses ranging between $41,000 and $243,000 since 2001, which depleted the county’s golf course reserve fund, the Business Journal reported.
On June 23rd, the Waukesha County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to authorize the county’s Department of Parks and Land Use to sign the purchase agreement and finalize the sale of the property, the Business Journal reported. The county’s budget plan allowed the course to open this season and for a new owner to take over by the end of 2020.
“This agreement fulfills the goals we have had all along—preservation of golf in Waukesha County while protecting taxpayers’ investment,” Waukesha County Executive Paul Farrow said in a statement. “This sale will allow residents to continue to enjoy a beloved golf course while allowing Waukesha County to maintain operations and fund improvements at its other two courses.”
Revenue from the county’s two other golf courses—Naga-Waukee War Memorial and Moor Downs Golf Course—will be reinvested into the county’s golf course reserve fund, the Business Journal reported.
The announcement of the Board’s approval of the sale to the Storm family was hailed by those behind a grass-roots movement, Save Wanaki Group, that sought to ensure the course’s survival through a sale to a private golf operator (https://clubandresortbusiness.com/residents-voice-concerns-over-possible-residential-development-of-wanaki-gc/).
Joe Vachuska, co-founder of the Save Wanaki Group, was all smiles after the Board’s vote, the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reported.
“We saved it,” Vachuska said. “Eleven months ago, we had like a zero chance of doing that.”
The Storm family has owned and operated golf courses and facilities in the greater Milwaukee area for sixty-eight years, the Journal-Sentinel reported, including Brookfield Hills GC and Storm’s Golf Range in Brookfield, Wis.; the Missing Links Golf Course and Driving Range in Mequon, Wis.; and Northwestern Golf Course in Deerfield, Wis.
“This [purchasing Wanaki] is a blue-chip deal,” said Tim Sullivan, a representative for the Storm family, the Journal-Sentinel reported.
The family is ready to make needed repairs needed at the property and will strive to maintain the golf course to the best of its ability, Sullivan added.
Alex Jaworski of the Storm family said the group’s first tasks will be to get a liquor license and expand the clubhouse, the Journal-Sentinel reported. “We want to do a whole new level of food,” Jaworski said. The group also plans to improve the grounds and lighting, he added.
But even with those changes, Jaworski and Sullivan said they want to keep the golf course much as it is, the Journal-Sentinel reported.
“It is a beautiful golf course. It will just be a better version of Wanaki,” said Sullivan.
The county, Jaworski and Sullivan all declined to detail the financial aspects of the deal with the county, the Journal-Sentinel reported. According to the Save Wanaki Facebook page, there were nine bids, including some golf course developers and a few residential developers.
The course had been listed for $1.52 million, the Journal-Sentinel reported, which amounted to about $10,270 per acre. The purchase includes the eighteen-hole golf course and equipment, maintenance facilities, carts and storage facilities, putting green and clubhouse with pro shop, bar and grill, locker rooms and restrooms.
“I know that the county can’t run it. Everyone wants it as a golf course,” said County Supervisor Timothy Dondlinger, who represents residents near the Wanaki property.
The Save Wanaki Group generated 6,000 signatures on a petition and Vachuska said “I must have read and sent over hundreds, if not thousands of e-mails [to the county],” in support of selling the course to another golf operator, the Journal-Sentinel reported.
If there was no sale of the property as a golf course by the end of June, Waukesha County press secretary Nicole Aremendariz told the Journal-Sentinel, the county would have had to sell the property for the highest price and best use, although how that would be defined was not clear.
“This was one situation where a solution worked for the taxpayers, constituents, golfers and everyone,” said Decker, the County Board Chairman.