Kennewick will get a new steakhouse and sports bar and an improved golf course, say the new owners of the Tri-City Country Club.
Twenty members of the club, who formed Save the Club LLC, took over ownership Oct. 3 after the club has faced financial difficulties in recent years.
The assets of the 79-year-old club were transferred outright to the new owners in hopes of saving the club from closure, said Clint Ables, the club’s golf professional and general manager for the last two years. He is one of the new owners.
The club was a nonprofit corporation controlled by its 192 members.
Benton County records show the value of the clubhouse, the golf course and some related buildings at about $2 million. The members voted unanimously to transfer the club to the new owners, Ables said.
The club’s new name will be Zintel Creek Golf Club and it will be mostly a public venue. In the past the course was public, but the clubhouse was private.
The restaurant at 314 N. Underwood St. that now is open only to members will close in January for remodeling.
It is scheduled to reopen to the public in February as The Edge, a high-end steak house on one side of the building and a sports lounge on the other, Ables said.
The sports lounge is planned to be open seven days a week and the steak house will be open Thursdays through Saturdays.
The lower floor of the clubhouse, with access to a swimming pool and fitness center, will remain available to members only.
Other renovations will make the golf course tournament-quality for daily play and allow golfers to shoot to their handicap. The goal is smooth and fast greens that make play more enjoyable, Ables said.
Sand traps have been an issue in recent years, and they will be rebuilt with U.S. Golf Association-approved sand to offer consistent play for golfers unlucky enough to land there.
The traps will have black sand, adding visual interest to a course already known for the large pines, elms and sycamores that provide summer shade.
Ables explained that mid-level clubs like the Tri-City Country Club have struggled nationwide in recent years.
The course — sandwiched between Kennewick Avenue and Canal Drive — also struggled with a reputation as a country club, with not enough people knowing that the golf course was open for public use, Ables said.
It had done little marketing and in recent years has not been able to afford marketing, he said.
Among the new owners’ first decisions has been dropping membership prices from $3,600 a year for families to $2,700. A single senior membership now costs $2,000 a year.
Annual memberships purchased now will be good through December 2018.
In recent years the club has had to assess members for operating and maintenance shortfalls on top of membership fees, leading to members resigning, Ables said.
The new owners believe the package they can offer now will retain existing members, who will pay less and have improved amenities. They will receive discounts at the new restaurant and sports lounge, have access to a pool and fitness center, and will not have to meet purchase minimums at the restaurant, Ables said.
Tri-City Country Club, which opened in 1938, is the oldest golf club in the Tri-Cities and “we are going to keep its heritage,” Ables said.
But the new name, which references the meandering creek that sustains the old growth trees, drops the reference to a country club.
“We want to be the exciting new place this is welcoming to everyone — that is inclusive,” Ables said.
Prices should be more in line with public courses, he said. It is one of 10 golf courses in the Tri-Cities.
The club will be led by a board of five of the new owners, which should allow decisions to be made more quickly than those previously put to a vote of the full membership, Ables said.
New owners include Brad Bell, Vera Berry, Levi Bland, Herb Coulter, Mike Evanson, Bob Hamilton, Angela Johnson, Marv Jones, Jesse Kadinger, Bill Lampson, Jim London, Jason Lynch, Brandon Mayfield, Craig Mayfield, Mitch Murphy, Bryan Pepin-Donat, Jean Ruane, Randy Stemp and Laurie Winchel.
Stemp is president of Save the Club.