Town council members are expected to approve the purchase of what is thought to be the Triangle’s first African-American-owned country club next week, members said late Tuesday.
The town is expected to pay about $2.9 million to buy Meadowbrook Country Club from St. Augustine’s University, which has owned the 121-acre tract since 2007.
Mayor Ronnie Williams has said that Garner has been looking for future parkland. In June, the town council hired a consultant to look at the feasibility of turning the course, off Country Club Drive and White Oak Road, into a park.
“We have a great need for practice fields and playing fields for soccer and baseball,” Williams said.
The county values the golf course at a little more than $2.4 million for tax purposes. Town Attorney Bill Anderson would not say how much St. Augustine’s was asking for it, but he said it was “much more than the town considered.”
St. Augustine’s University officials have not spoken publicly about the sale of the course, which would provide an infusion of cash for a school that has had financial problems amid declining enrollment in recent years.
Frequent visitors and long-time members and volunteers say the nine-hole course has struggled in recent years. They said while golfers still play, participation and membership have declined.
Meadowbrook was founded in 1958 and was said to be the first African-American-owned country club in the Triangle. Some claim it was the first in the country.
At the time, African-Americans were not allowed to play on quality golf courses that were white-owned, or they had to play when the courses were closed. So a group of African-American men wanting to play decided to create their own course and bought the 121 acres south of Garner.
During the country club’s early years, the only African-American people allowed to play at the club were teachers, lawyers and doctors – or those who made the most money. Eventually it opened up to African-Americans of all socio-economic statuses and thrived. It became a place where men would golf, families would cook out and kids swam and played putt-putt.
But over the years, since integration when African-Americans were slowly allowed to join country clubs owned by whites, membership at Meadowbrook dropped. It became tough to pay the bills.
Cutbacks were made, and a smaller staff kept up the course. The greens turned to brown rough, and the bunkers became filled with weeds and grass.
The owners of the course, who were the children of the founders, sold the golf course to St. Augustine’s – a historically black university – in 2007 hoping to keep it in African-American-owned hands.
Members and volunteers say the club initially was revitalized after the sale, then suffered during the recession. Staff was reduced again, and some of the same problems faced in 2007 seemed to arise again.
“If they were to sell this place, we’d have nowhere to go,” Will Lassiter, 62, said in March. “This is our culture.”
Anderson, the town attorney, and council members say they will take up the sale at Tuesday’s work session. According to the agenda, the council will also consider a proposed short-term lease back agreement for St. Augustine’s.