|By Jason Kolnos, Cape Cod Times, Hyannis,
Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News
Feb. 1, 2006 - BREWSTER -- Since opening the 426-acre resort community in 1986, Ocean Edge Resort & Club's owners have gone to great lengths to build one of New England's best luxury getaways. Last year, they completed a $5 million improvement project at the 335-room facility.
Now, they're hoping to attract national attention.
To do that, they have hired a management firm and plan to spend more than $20 million over the next two years upgrading and renovating the resort.
Plans include a redesign of the 18-hole golf course by Nicklaus Design, a company founded by legendary golfer Jack Nicklaus.
Ocean Edge would be Nicklaus Design's first course redesign on the Cape.
Corcoran Jennison Hospitality, which owns the Brewster resort, has tapped the nation's most recognized name in golf and resort services to help with future changes.
Dallas-based ClubCorp will take over every level of Ocean Edge's management, from golf operations to conference planning. Previously, Ocean Edge used in-house general managers to oversee operations.
ClubCorp, which is a privately held company with $1.5 billion in assets, and its affiliates own or operate nearly 170 golf courses, country clubs, private business and sports clubs and resorts.
Perhaps the company's most recognized property is Pinehurst Resort in North Carolina, the largest golf resort in North America and site of the 1999 and 2005 US Open.
"When you have the opportunity to work with the best company when it comes to the day-to-day operation of a resort, you can't pass that up," said Greg O'Brien of the Stony Brook Group. O'Brien is a spokesman for Corcoran Jennison.
In addition to the golf course, capital funds will be used to make changes at the Ocean Grill restaurant, meeting spaces, guest rooms, dining rooms and the spa.
"We will be upgrading every aspect of the Ocean Edge facility," O'Brien said. "It's a sound business decision right now to build on what is the finest resort in New England and take it to the next level."
ClubCorp executives will soon present Ocean Edge owners with a plan for renovations. Until Corcoran Jennison signs off, however, officials remain mum about details.
"The objectives and long-term goals of the Ocean Edge owners are very much consistent with our own," ClubCorp's vice president of new business development, Tom Bennison, said. "And that is to always strive for raising the bar in terms of quality and standards to enhance the experience of our members and guests."
This may one of the most ambitious plans for a Cape Cod hospitality entity in recent memory, according to local business leaders.
"This scale of capital upgrade is certainly not a common occurrence here, but it is something that the Cape could certainly use more of," said Mark O'Brien, golf pro at Captains Golf Course in Brewster and chairman of the Cape Cod Chamber of Commerce's golf committee.
As Ocean Edge gains national prominence, more visitors may be drawn to the region because of its reputation, he said.
"Ocean Edge will be in very good hands," said Michael Tinkey, deputy CEO of the National Golf Course Owners Association.
Tinkey said there has been a growing trend among mid-sized private resorts and golf clubs to tap nationally known companies to raise their profile. One challenge, he said, is that resorts must be willing to invest enough money to create a one-stop facility that caters to many needs.
Being able to sustain a major reinvestment in an area that thrives on seasonal business also poses a significant challenge, Mark O'Brien said.
John Beckert, CEO of ClubCorp, said upgrades will allow the resort to remain strong during the shoulder season, which "is critical for developing and maintaining positive relationships" with everyone from business travelers to staff and the community.
"Ocean Edge's commitment to promoting a more year-round business fits with our sustainable tourism philosophy," added Wendy Northcross, the Cape Cod Chamber's executive director.
But will other, smaller hotels, motels or bed-and-breakfasts feel pressured to compete?
Northcross said no, evoking a "rising tide lifts all boats" theme.
She said resort visitors might be lured by Ocean Edge's facilities but may opt to stay off-site. They could then plunk money into local bed-and-breakfasts, restaurants and entertainment venues.
Charles Sumner, Brewster's town administrator, said resort officials have already engaged the town in dialogue about renovation plans. The town also stands to benefit from the project, because each year hotel and motel taxes bring in $500,000 in revenue, about 90 percent of which comes from Ocean Edge, Sumner said.
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Copyright (c) 2006, Cape Cod Times, Hyannis, Mass.
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