Golf course sold to local developers

Sunstone Ridge successful bidder in auction for The Meadows at Pemberton

The Meadows at Pemberton golf course will remain in local hands, as Sunstone Ridge Developments was announced this week as the winning bidder in a sealed-bid auction.

Sunstone Ridge takes over a course located just on the other side of the Lillooet River from its 111 hectares of land holdings, formerly known as the Ravens Crest lands, where future development is planned. The sale price was not disclosed.

"We were pretty excited when we learned we were the successful bidder," said Nyal Wilcox, vice-president of Sunstone Ridge parent company Janspec Holdings Ltd., on Wednesday (Feb. 27).

"We think there's a real opportunity to have a positive impact in Pemberton, and not just with the residential development," he continued. "We saw the golf course as a really good public asset that we wanted to get behind and support, and make sure is available to local players."

Wilcox said his group was an interested observer as the course went through receivership and an ownership change in 2008. With the auction announcement coming in mid-January, Wilcox said the timing seemed right for Sunstone Ridge to make an offer.

Previous owner Gord Bell said the closing date for bids recently closed after it was moved up from the original March 15 deadline.

Though he would not confirm how many bids were entered in the auction, Bell said there was "overwhelming" interest from prospective bidders, including inquiries from outside Canada. However, he said Sunstone Ridge was the best fit.

"I feel like those guys are the perfect new owners. They're great businessmen and have a great interest in Pemberton, so I just think it's perfect," said Bell.

Since they're just now taking over, Wilcox said it's too early to predict if members should expect any changes to the course, or if Sunstone Ridge will continue with Bell's plans to establish an RV park on the course property, which the Agricultural Land Commission approved last year. Those decisions will come following an internal review of the business, he said.

"We need to get a handle on things to make sure it's up and running as quick as possible for the 2013 season," said Wilcox. "If I have an opportunity, I'll talk with some of the long-term members to see if they have any suggestions to make it a better playing experience."

Wilcox said acquiring the course could make Sunstone Ridge that much more attractive to The Hill Academy - the athletics-focused private school group from Ontario that is considering a Pemberton campus within the Sunstone Ridge development. School officials have said they'll need access to more athletic facilities in order for their model to work in the Spud Valley, so Sunstone Ridge adding one to its Pemberton assets is a step in that direction.

"When we told them we were putting in a bid and discussed the potential, they immediately saw that potential fit for The Hill Academy," said Wilcox. "I can't say for certain at this point in time, but I suspect The Hill Academy would be very interested in running a golf program. So again, it might just be a nice fit for everybody."

Officials with The Hill Academy will be back in the Sea to Sky corridor in March, looking to gauge local interest for the school or answer questions from potential students and parents. Open houses are scheduled for Pemberton on March 11 and Whistler on March 12 at 6 p.m., with locations to be announced.

Contact Peter Merrill at peter.merrill@thehillacademy.comfor more information regarding the school and its programming.

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