Grand Niagara Resort, the once great development by the Sharp family (Four Seasons) and a Mississauga development group led by the Sorokolit family, have apparently run out of cash and patience with the underperforming resort, as it is now listed for sale at the price of $22-million under power of sale. All 788-acres are part of the package, according to the listing.
The course, which opened in 2004, has (and continues to have, apparently, since it is on the website) some grand ambitions:
¢ 350 unit, high quality, brand name resort accommodation
¢ 300 unit luxury vacation ownership community on a man-made lake including a designated clubhouse and recreation centre for vacation ownership guests
¢ 20,000 square foot spa and recreation centre
¢ a state of the art conference facility
¢ a vision to create the Grand Niagara Estate Winery that will include facilities for public tours and a full service restaurant
¢ world-class recreation services and amenities
¢ 225 bungalow and townhome residences for anyone wishing to make GN more than a vacation destination.
None of this has happened. Last time I was there, the parking lot was unpaved and the clubhouse was a trailer, with operations being run out of an old house. The golf course, as I mentioned in my review, was fine, but certainly nothing special and would never have warranted the $150 per round concept the development group floated at the beginning. I find this quote from the course’s opening quite intriguing when the situation has been placed into perspective:
“You can’t tell me that the chance to play a Rees Jones-designed golf course for what amounts to $100 in American funds isn’t a steal,” Sorokolit said.
Apparently it wasn’t a steal. In fact, most people didn’t even think it offered value for money once prices were reduced. Needless to say, no one has been talking about the second course — to be designed by Greg Norman — in a long, long time, though the ownership group hadn’t given up on a second course, and were known to be nosing around in recent months on the matter.
So what went so wrong? Foremost, the golf course, created by Jones on a largely ordinary and relatively flat piece of property, was design-by-numbers. It was standard Jones fare — popped up greens, flanked by deep bunkers. The course, which features a lot of water as a key design feature, could have been found in central Florida. It was, apparently, always in good condition, but was too costly for the region, which already has a glut of courses, many of which are value-priced.
Sources have told me the partners rarely had a cohesive vision for what they were trying to accomplish, which meant there was no singular way of presenting or marketing the facility. And I think it hurt that they were so aggressively ambitious at the start, only to fall so far short of their stated goals.
I think it is pretty clear no one is going to ante up $22-million for nearly 800 acres in a rural area near Niagara Falls. Would it be worth half that?
Thanks to realtor Dave Pratt for sending me the listing. Interestingly, with the exception of Crimson Ridge in Sault Ste. Marie, which is still up for sale at a listed $3.5-million, Pratt notes few high-end golf properties have made their way onto the market.
“We’re shocked at how few courses are available for sale in Ontario,” he says. “There doesn’t seem to be a shortage of buyers, just a shortage of available properties.”