The collective gasp was audible on the patio at The Range as Billy Helm went to the microphone to announce that a corporation he and other investors were forming would buy Mill Creek Golf Course outright.
Within seconds, the reaction turned to applause.
Dave Hermann, owner of The Range restaurant in Salado, brought together local residents and business owners to rally support for the purchase of Mill Creek through the Salado Golf Club, a non-profit that started early this year with the goal of purchasing and restoring Mill Creek to a 27-hole golf course. He had hoped for the gathering to be somewhat of a pep rally to draw more interest in the effort to raise the $1.75 million necessary to buy the course from Morris Foster and to raise the $500,000 to repair the creek holes of the course lost to floods.
Instead, the fajita dinner that Hermann provided turned into more of a celebration for Helm’s earlier announcement.
Helm and his wife Vickie sat down with me earlier today to talk about the announcement more in depth.
Helm said that he has eight investors from the central Texas area who are coming together to purchase the golf course and fund the restoration of it.
With a $25,000 earnest money check delivered to Foster, Helm thinks that his group can close on the property by mid-July. Immediately after that, he says, locals will see work begin on the course.
Helm said that the group would not be borrowing money to purchase the course or to repair it.
Salado Golf Club has been approaching residents and businesses to give it loans ranging from $2,500 to $10,000 or more at three percent interest with principal on the loan due in 10 years. The Golf Club had also approached the Village of Salado to consider an economic development loan that would fund the restoration of the course.
Helm said that the new owners would also be turning to the business community for support, but that it would not necessarily have to come in the form of checks. “There are lots of ways they can help,” Helm said of the businesses in Salado.
Cross promotion and marketing are just a couple of those ways and Helm said that they would look at the best ways to promote the golf course once it has been returned to its original 27 holes.
Helm said that Salado is poised to take advantage of the intense growth of the central Texas area. “Central Texas is perhaps the fastest growing area in the nation,” he said, pointing out the new Seaton hospital in Killeen, construction of the new seven-story Darnall hospital at Fort Hood and the expansion and partnerships of Scott and White and other businesses in Bell County.
People who move to this area will be looking for great places to live and to play, he says. A reinvigorated Mill Creek will make Salado even more attractive than it is already.
“Once Mill Creek is back to its original state,” he said, “it is the best golf course in the area.”
Getting the course back to a full 27 holes will be a priority for the new ownership, he said.
Bruce Bolick, certified public accountant working with the Salado Golf Club, informed its lenders that the uncashed checks would be returned to them via mail.
“I know you join me in congratulating this group, wish them success, and will support their efforts to repair and revive the golf course. This is great news for Salado and the surrounding area!” Bolick stated in an email sent to lenders. “In the next few days we will be winding up the operations of the Salado Golf Club at Mill Creek, Incorporated and will be returning lenders' uncashed checks.”
Helm said that the new owners would not be asking for loans, but would be seeking community support through sponsorships and other avenues.
Those other avenues will be the topic of discussion in coming days and weeks.
Helm will meet with residents and other interested parties tonight at 6:30 p.m. at the Mill Creek Pro Shop.