a new landscape inquiry loosely springing from an experimental combination of about 300 sheets of expired 4x5 film, an ultra minimalist wooden pinhole camera loaned from a friend, and the simple utter truth that i fell in love with a 14 mile palm-lined boulevard in Fresno

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Running Horse sold

Running Horse project sold
SoCal partnership buys Fresno development.
By George Hostetter and Ken Robison / The Fresno Bee
11/22/06 03:53:25

As expected, but with less fanfare than promised, a Southern California partnership announced Tuesday it is buying the financially troubled Running Horse residential and golf course project in southwest Fresno.

Jack Haney, one of the partners in Running Horse Development Group, declined to reveal the price his company agreed to pay but said escrow should close in December.

"It's very exciting to be involved in something like this," Haney said.

He said the partnership is buying Running Horse because Fresno "is a great place to live."

The partially built golf course, which so far has only two holes with grass, is scheduled to host a $4.5 million, 72-hole PGA Tour event in October. None of the planned 780 houses has been built in the project, which has experienced cash-flow problems.

Haney said getting the course built in time for the tournament "is going to be tight, but we think we think we can pull it off."

He said the Running Horse vision will remain largely unchanged. City Hall officials are counting on the project, with its upscale homes and Jack Nicklaus-designed golf course, to spur development in a part of Fresno that has long been ignored by many developers.

An auction scheduled for today to sell about 430 acres at Running Horse to pay off a defaulted loan will no longer be held. Haney said that problem has been resolved.

Several million dollars in liens have been filed at the Fresno County Recorder's Office by businesses that have not been paid for work on the project. Haney said they would be paid at the close of escrow.

Tom O'Meara, who has spent more than four years trying to get the project off the ground, said the deal will provide enough money to repay his investors with principal and interest.

O'Meara also said he will settle concerns of unhappy homeowners in the 58-lot Kearney Estates, next to the golf course. Work has stopped on many of the homes.

O'Meara said last week that a sale of Running Horse was imminent. He said a news conference would be held Tuesday to unveil the deal.

But the news conference was canceled Monday, in part, O'Meara said, because a Florida-based PGA Tour official had difficulty making airline arrangements during Thanksgiving week.

Jeff Monday, the PGA Tour's senior vice president for tournament development, said the potential new owner "is fully committed to moving ahead and getting everything ready on the golf course." He said the plan remains to hold the tournament at Running Horse in 2007.

Running Horse tournament director Bob Jeffrey said Tuesday's announcement was a boost as his staff works to secure sponsorships and promotions for the tournament.

"We keep moving forward with hospitality, sponsorships and volunteer recruitment," Jeffrey said. "This gives us a boost by solidifying to the market that this event will be here."

Jeffrey said he is negotiating a multiyear contract with possible title sponsors. Such a sponsorship would average about $3.5 million a year, bringing the total package to between $13 million and $15 million.

The PGA has a six-year commitment to stage the tournament in Fresno.

Barring bad weather, Jeffrey said, Running Horse should be seeded by May, giving the grass all summer to grow. No one will play on the course before the tournament.

"We're confident the course can be completed and we will be at Running Horse," Jeffrey said.

Still, he continues his search for an alternate site in case Running Horse isn't ready. He said an alternate course would be on standby, and would be notified in early June if it would be needed.