Company News

First Columbia buys stake in Saratoga National Golf Club
The Business Review, April 5, 2007

First Columbia , a large commercial real estate developer in Latham, has purchased a "substantial interest" in the Saratoga National Golf Club, an 18-hole course in Saratoga Springs that has drawn rave reviews from the golf industry since opening six years ago.

First Columbia President Kevin Bette said his company wants to enhance what is already one of the region's premier public courses with a world class spa, a golf practice facility with top flight pros teaching lessons, a hotel and other possible improvements.

For the time being the focus will be on the 7,265-yard course and the 35,000-square-foot clubhouse in an effort to attract more corporate clients and others looking to mix business with pleasure. The course already has an upscale restaurant, Sargo's.

"It's got the makings of what you find in many destinations in the world," Bette said.

First Columbia purchased a stake in the property last November, Bette said. He didn't disclose financial terms.

Saratoga National Chief Executive Officer Tom Newkirk said First Columbia bought a minority interest in the course. Newkirk's partners are Tony Malatino and Scot Thomas.

"I think Kevin will be very helpful to us in developing some of our corporate business as opposed to individual business," Newkirk said.

The course attracts a large number of out-of-town players. Newkirk estimated more than 40 percent travel 50 miles or more to play.

"I like coming in the morning and seeing cars from Canada, Connecticut and New Jersey," he said.

The course is offering lessons this season through a new affiliation with Peak Performance Golf, a training academy in Greenfield Center.

Bette stressed there are no plans to subdivide the roughly 200 acres of wooded land around the course for housing. First Columbia is leasing that area, located southeast of Exit 14 of the Northway, from Yaddo, a nearby artist retreat.

Located at 458 Union Ave., Saratoga National was the most expensive golf course in the Albany region in 2005, according to The Business Review. About 24,000 rounds were played that year.

Rates this season are $110 to $175 for 18 holes, depending on the date, which includes a golf cart equipped with a Global Positioning System, use of the practice facility, two bottles of water and a locker, if available.

At nearly 7,300 yards, it's longer than typical courses, which run 6,600 to 6,800 yards, Newkirk said. Players have a choice of starting from five different sets of tees, depending on their skill level.

Among its honors, Saratoga National was listed as one of the 100 best public courses in America in 2005 by Golf Digest Magazine and named the 2005 "Golf Course of the Year" by the National Golf Course Owners Association.

First Columbia owns about 1.8 million square feet of commercial real estate in the Albany region, but is in the process of selling its entire portfolio of nine medical office buildings in an area stretching from Glens Falls to the lower Hudson Valley.

The firm is pursuing a large office, retail, housing and hotel complex along the Hudson River in Troy, N.Y., and is developing the 260-acre New York International Plaza in New Windsor, Orange County, near Stewart International Airport.