|By Kurt Blumenau, The Morning Call,
Allentown, Pa.McClatchy-Tribune Business News
Mar. 31, 2007 - Center Valley Club, one of the Lehigh Valley's most highly regarded public golf courses, will be sold next week to a development company that promises upgrades but no drastic changes.
The Upper Saucon Township golf course is being sold to Sierra Management Co. of Doylestown, Sierra President Greg Kessell confirmed Friday. Kessell's company plans to build a hotel and conference center next to the course, with construction slated to start by fall.
Kessell said his company plans to make improvements to the 18-hole course over time, including the construction of a new clubhouse. But the company has no plans to redevelop any of the course land, he added. Sierra also plans to keep the course public.
The new owner wants to keep staff in place, including president and general manager Larry Wise, Kessell added. Wise could not be reached for comment Friday.
The course is now owned by Stabler Land Co., the development company that has turned the Stabler Corporate Center in Upper Saucon into a thriving mixed-use complex.
The Stabler Center's biggest occupants include the headquarters of Olympus America; a major office of business information company D&B; and the upscale mall Promenade Shops at Saucon Valley.
Sierra Management is backing a plan to add a 200-room hotel and conference center, to be called the Saucon Creek Conference Center. Sierra has pitched that plan for several years, and has owned 16.5 acres of land there since 2004.
Kessell expects to get final approval from the township next month. The center should open about 18 months after construction starts, he said.
Township officials said discussions of the plans have long called for the same company to operate the conference center and the golf course. Kessell said his company wants to run the two together as "a seamless operation."
Stabler Land Co. President Robert Bower deferred comment to Kessell.
Center Valley Club, opened in 1992, describes itself on its Web site as "a premier upscale 18-hole designer course."
Its designer was Massachusetts architect Geoffrey Cornish. The front nine holes are influenced by course designs from the British Isles, while the club describes the back nine as having a "North American Inland" design.
Fees for 18 holes start at $85 on weekends and holidays and $79.50 on weekdays, but drop rapidly for players willing to tee off later in the day.
The course hosted the PGA-sanctioned Nike Lehigh Valley Open in 1998 and 1999.
Copyright (c) 2007, The Morning Call, Allentown, Pa.
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