Carson golf course sale axed; prospective buyers, city at odds |

Carson golf course sale axed; prospective buyers, city at odds

Anne Knowles |
The Empire Ranch Golf Course is covered with standing water after a bad storm in January 2017.
Jim Grant / Nevada Appeal

CARSON CITY, Nev. — The sale of Empire Ranch Golf Course is off.

One of the prospective buyers said they changed their minds after discussions with Carson City officials.

“We decided to re-evaluate our plan after city officials threatened to litigate the water contract connected to the golf course property,” said Art Castañares, founder and CEO of Manzana Energy Inc., who with his partner, Dr. Fred Simon, a surgeon and owner of Khristopher’s Ristorante and Bar on Mica Drive, last month offered to purchase the golf course for $3.5 million.

“We remain very interested in flat sports fields in Carson City and will continue to work toward building a home for the Coyotes soccer team. I am disappointed that city officials would take a position that is not consistent with the terms of the contract and their previous statements with respect to the water contract,” he said. “They seem more interested in protecting the status quo of wasting fresh drinking water on golf courses than finding a better solution to the water issues facing Carson City residents.”

Nick Marano, Carson City manager, disagrees with that assessment.

“The fact is the Empire Ranch Delivery Contract for reclaimed water has been in place going back to 1983. That contract has served both the owners of Empire Ranch and the citizens of Carson City well ever since. Recently, a California Developer has come to town and pronounced this a bad deal. This developer thought he could come to town, dictate terms and ignore the concerns of our community. The developer thought he did not have to apply for a Special Use Permit nor address community concerns with his plans to develop a soccer complex on on the quiet, and beautiful golf course,” Marano said. “Each meeting that the development team held with neighbors became increasingly confrontational, culminating with a meeting this past Sunday at the BAC. When the developer realized he would have to go through a transparent, public process, he folded and is now blaming the city.”

Castañares and Simon own the Carson City Coyotes, a two-year old team in the United Premier Soccer League, and had planned to build a soccer complex where the team could practice and play, they said previously.

Empire Ranch Golf Course is one of four properties Carson City contracts with to take the city’s effluent water. It is second in priority, after the state of Nevada Prison Farm. Eagle Valley Golf Course is third in priority, and Silver Oak Golf Course is last.

According to its contract, Empire Ranch must take a minimum of 790 acre feet of reclaimed waste water annually and can request up to 1,385 acre feet “subject to availability of such reclaimed waste water and Carson City’s contractual obligations which are of a higher priority.”

In 2016, Dwight Millard, the course’s owner, filed in bankruptcy court claiming that the city failed to deliver the course’s entire water allotment.

According to the filing, the city breached the contract with Empire Ranch “by providing effluent in addition to purchasing and delivery of potable water to lower priority effluent rights holders, prior to or without providing plaintiff all of the effluent it is entitled to receive.”

The city has in the past needed to supplement the waste water with raw water to deliver on all its contracts.

In addition to meeting with city officials, Castañares met with residents near the golf course when news of the impending sale was made public.

The sale was expected to close March 5, but on Thursday afternoon a message was posted to the business’ Facebook page by Millard.

“Empire Ranch 27 Hole Championship Golf Course is not selling and is still open for business! We apologize for the inconvenience this has caused to our wonderful city, community, & golfers. Although this has been an unfortunate mix up, this has been a great eye opener for all of us to appreciate the beauty this amazing golf course has to offer,” read the post.

The message went on to say improvements would be made to the golf course, including flood damage repairs and reseeding the course, and to the restaurant, which has a new chef.

“Once we finish the restoration I think the golfers will be delighted with the changes,” said Sandra Page Millard.

She said the course’s 18 employees are all being retained.

“We had a meeting with them today,” said Millard. “They are happy for the uncertainty to be over.”