AP NEWS

Fairbanks Ranch club sold

July 21, 2016

The Fairbanks Ranch Country Club was sold this week to Bay Club California, a San Francisco-based company with a growing network of golf, fitness and swimming clubs around the state.

The deal makes Bay Club’s second outlet in San Diego, with the company having built and opened Bay Club Carmel Valley in 2003. Members at the Carmel Valley will be able to upgrade their memberships and gain access to golf at Fairbanks.

Fairbanks, opened in 1984 with a role in that year’s summer Olympic Games, was sold by its members, who will retain their memberships but relinquish their ownership interest in the 372-acre property on San Dieguito Road.

The price was not disclosed, but the new owner was required to pay back rent of more than $634,500 to the city. The city extended the 61-year lease by nine years, ending in 2054, and set the monthly rent at $62,500, or a possible higher amount based on a percentage of gross receipts. The minimum rate is set to rise 6 percent every five years.

The county assessor’s office said the value of the leasehold is currently $14.3 million for purposes of property taxes.

Bay Club, which has been managing Fairbanks for more than a year, owns 24 other properties. It is a unit of York Capital Management, a New York City-based investment firm that manages more than $25 billion in assets. Bay Club counts about 56,000 members and 3,400 employees at its 25 locations around the state.

The new owner held its first open house for members Wednesday and will offer golf membership options on the 27-hole course to the Carmel Valley club members.

“Our plan is to evolve the traditional country club into a more modern and flexible offering that suits the needs of today’s dynamic families,” Matthew Stevens, Bay Club president and CEO, said in a statement.

Bobbi Quick, Bay Club executive vice president for Southern California, said the acquisition was prompted by the course’s proximity to the nine-acre Carmel Valley property, at 12000 Carmel Country Road. Opened in 2003, it features tennis, fitness and swimming facilities.

“We felt it was like a fantastic marriage of both concepts,” Quick said.

A Bay Club Carmel Valley membership spokesman said monthly dues with access to both locations range from $290 to $975; initiation fees ranges from $3,000 to $25,000.

As approved by the City Council in May, Bay Club’s plans include a series of upgrades over the next two years: a new 1.8-acre swimming pool area; six new lighted tennis courts on 2.6 acres added to eight existing courts; a 4-acre multi-use green; and a 1.4-acre clubhouse patio with a new dining area, putting green, bocce ball courts, grill and outdoor fireplace. Quick said the clubhouse will be refreshed and modernized.

“The amount of change that’s necessary to transform it into a Bay Club is minimal,” Quick said. “The club is in beautiful condition. For us to come in and do major renovations wasn’t necessary.”

Bay Club also agreed to complete the 147-acre habitat restoration plan required in the original lease. Included will be conversion of 19.3 acres of ornamental and disturbed areas.

The country club has a storied history, starting with its ownership by acting couple Douglas Fairbanks Sr. and Mary Pickford in the 1920s. Their Rancho Zorro, named after Fairbanks’ 1920 movie, “The Mark of Zorro,” encompassed more than 3,000 acres, part of the original 89,000-acre Rancho San Dieguito Mexican land grant.

In 1977 developer Ray Watt began reassembling the property to build the Fairbanks Ranch housing community and the country club. In return for getting city approval, he donated the country club site to the city and leased it back, predicting the city could earn as much as $1 billion over the following six decades.

The property gained worldwide attention in 1984 as the site of several equestrian events during the Los Angeles Summer Olympics. Britain’s Prince Philip visited the site in his role as president of the International Equestrian Federation. In 1986 Watt assigned his ownership of the club to the members.

In subsequent years golf club development outpaced demand and many courses have closed and been redeveloped. Interest in golf has declined nationwide.

Membership at Fairbanks declined from about 500 to 374 last year, according to the city, and the members faced financial difficulties and special assessments for various improvements.

Developer Doug Manchester and golf champion Phil Mickelson signed a letter of intent to buy the club in 2014 but the deal was never consummated and the club conducted a competitive bidding process last year to sell its leasehold.

Jeff Woolson, executive vice president and the managing director of CBRE’s Golf & Resort Group who handled the transaction, said about 10 companies expressed interest in the property and Bay Club took over management after reaching a purchase agreement. The sale was delayed while the city reviewed the proposed leasehold transfer.

“The big concern was how they were going to bring in new members,” he said.

Bay Club offered a new approach that appeals to mothers who work out in a state-of-the-art fitness facility and fathers who only have time to play golf on weekdays. That approach then frees up the course for hard-core golfers on Saturdays and Sundays.

The carryover members retain their membership and don’t have to pay new initiation fees but don’t get to share in any of the proceeds of the sale, Woolson said. He said the sale price was less than the current assessed valuation.

roger.showley@sduniontribune.com (619) 293-1296 Twitter: @rogershowley