© Guardian Photo By Jason Malloy
A golfer on No. 1 tee at The Links at Crowbush Cove. FILE PHOTO
A deal that was in the works to sell the province’s top golf course to a private owner is now off.
After months of negotiations that very nearly saw an agreement in principle signed last fall, Tourism Minister Robert Henderson says both the province and the buyer have now agreed to walk away from the deal.
“We weren’t able to reach an agreement that was in the mutual interests of the province and also not in the mutual interest of the proponent that we were having our discussions with.”
Henderson would not reveal who the potential buyer was or what led the negotiations over the golf course to break off.
But he did say it is currently a buyer’s market.
“I’m not as the minister of tourism and culture going to have a deal for the sake of a deal, I want a deal that makes sense for the taxpayers,” Henderson said.
“The province has considerable investment in these properties, they are, in my opinion, valuable properties, they have lots of potential, but it does seem to be a bit of a buyers’ game in the golf industry right now and it’s not conducive to the seller.”
The province has been losing money on its four provincial golf courses.
In 2012, government had to issue a $1.4-million special warrant to cover golf losses.
That’s why it issued a request for proposals in 2012, looking for private operators to manage, lease or buy Crowbush, Brudenell, Mill River and Dundarave golf courses.
Crowbush was the closest to a sale before the recent negotiations failed.
Preliminary negotiations are now underway over the Mill River Golf Course.
Henderson said it’s still premature to say what the long-term plan will be for the four golf courses, but said they will all be open for business in the upcoming golf season.
“Even in the negotiations we’re having with Mill River, we know that we’re not going to conclude anything even by mid-summer, so that’s why we’ve said we are going to operate (the courses) and let discussions and negotiations and continue,” Henderson said.
As for the Crowbush deal, the tourism minister said he does not believe it’s necessary to get into the specifics of why the deal fell apart.
“In the end the deal isn’t there. What was the straw that broke the camel’s back, so to speak, is somewhat irrelevant,” Henderson said.
“We are also hopeful that we will find another proponent that might have some interest… and who knows, maybe things will get back to table at some point. But as it stands now, we’ve mutually agreed that we weren’t close enough to bridge the gap.”
In November, Premier Robert Ghiz said in the legislature the Crowbush course would need $4 million to $8 million in upgrades to make it competitive with other elite courses.
An official in the tourism department said there are no current plans to move ahead with these upgrades.