Steamfitters Pipefitters Local 455 buys Hillcrest Golf Club for $4.3M

Reprinted from the  A local pipefitters union has snapped up the old Hillcrest Golf Club in St. Paul, paying $4.3 million for the private club and vowing to keep it private for at least two years. The union said it hopes to breathe new life into the business, which has been in the red with sliding membership. The all-cash deal closed earlier this month.

"They've kept a very pristine course with a limited budget," said Gary Erlander, business manager for the Steamfitters Pipefitters Local 455 in St. Paul. "We've been saving money for a long time to own something." Many of the union's 1,426 members, who do a lot of heating and cooling work, are golfers, Erland said, adding that he didn't know whether any of them belong to the club. "We're trying to change that," he said.

The 112-acre property in St. Paul's northeast corner includes the 18-hole course, a rebuilt clubhouse and a swimming pool. It went on the market last August for $4.2 million, attracting a flurry of interest, before finally closing Feb 3. The union's bid prevailed because of its commitment to keep the club a private golf course, said Frank Jermusek, president of Grubb & Ellis/Northco Real Estate Services, which handled the sale.

Jermusek said the union plans to add on to some of the facilities and include some union offices on the site. The pipefitters union in St. Louis also owns a golf course.

Hillcrest has a long history in St. Paul, where it opened in 1921 and later became a Jewish country club. It's no longer exclusively Jewish and is open to everyone, said Jennie Schader, Hillcrest's membership and marking director.

Golf courses around the country have struggled, victims of overbuilding during the real estate boom years and waning interest in the sport. Membership at Hillcrest is down from about 240 several years ago to about 200 today and has four full-time staff members, a catering company, and many part-time and seasonal workers, Schader said. She wouldn't discuss membership fees.

Hillcrest is one of about 40 golf course and resorts across the Midwest with for-sale signs that Jermusek's company is handling at the moment, he said. "It seems like there's been more and more of these hitting the market in the last six to 12 months."

Erlander said the union is going to "try to get our arms around running a golf course" and make it flourish again. The plan is to work their business contacts to sign up new members.