While news of Denison University’s purchase of the Granville Inn has had a year to circulate, the school recently received another feather for its cap in the form of the Granville Golf Course.
Denison officials revealed Oct. 14 that the Donald Ross-designed course had been gifted to the school by the six shareholders of the Granville Golf Course Co. The gift follows the $1.25 million purchase of the Granville Inn last November.
Denison Vice President of Finance and Management Seth Patton said goal is for the golf course to stand on its own financially. The 18-hole course will be managed by the Davey Golf division of Davey Tree Expert Co.
“I think that making golf courses financially successful today is a challenge, but Davey Tree has evaluated it and they believe they can turn it to profitability in a five year period,” Patton said. “And for us as a college, if it can be operated successfully and nobody loses any money, and we can keep it as a golf course, then that’s a great win for everybody.”
Denison head men’s golf coach Rodney Butt said the gift will mean good things for the university and for Granville.
“The previous owners were all Denison alumni and felt that it would be good for the community and university – rather than selling it to an outside source – if they had the opportunity to give it to Denison, they felt better about that,” he said. “I think it will be a really good thing. With keeping it in the community, not only does it bring people in to play golf, but it also brings them into the village to shop and spend money at the restaurants. With the combination (of the inn and golf course), we can put some nice packages together and bring people into town.”
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Butt said it’s still early to speculate on any major changes that could be made to the golf course, but that ownership by the university can only mean good things for the Denison golf team. The team has used the course since the mid-1950s, he said, and has already had full use of the course and facilities.
Inn restoration plans
Renovations of the Granville Inn are well under way and that the work is on track for an early April 2015 opening.
“It’s a very comprehensive, historic restoration of the building, and we think it will be quite lovely when it’s done,” Patton said.
The $9 million project includes raising the inn’s roof to allow for 10 additional guest rooms, which already has been completed.
Plans also call for an upgraded kitchen.
Patton said the goal is for the inn to stand on its own two feet financially, but that keeping it a part of the community was the primary concern.
“We weren’t necessarily looking for an opportunity to be in the inn business,” he said, “but we felt that the Granville Inn is very important to the village and to Denison. It was in receivership being operated under a court-appointed receiver; the previous owners had had some financial difficulties, and it had been operated on that basis for about 12 to 18 months. I think we were all just getting worried that no one would step forward and continue operating it as an inn. We felt it was too important not to having it operating as an inn, and operating at that level.”
Denison University has had a close relationship with the Granville Inn over the decades, said Laura Evans of the Granville Historical Society, who writes a column for the Newark Advocate.
“After Denison sold the Middleton House and they had need to put up prospective professors or anyone visiting in an official capacity, they were housed in the Granville Inn, so there’s a long-term, growing need for that particular place,” Evans said. “This is where people have wedding receptions and other important events – it’s just ingrained in the history of the people.
“It’s wonderful that the Granville Inn will be continuing, because it’s a bedrock historical property here in the village,” Evans said.
While their potential as moneymakers can’t be overlooked, the inn and golf course are important to Denison in other ways, Patton said.
“The big vision is to keep the village vibrant and to keep the college attractive to prospective students and families,” he said.
“It’s important for us to have a place for visitors to stay right in the village – if you experience the village when you come away from a visit at Denison, it’s a better experience … We have prospective students coming in all year long … On the other hand, we’re not looking to lose money on it, so we hope it’ll do well.”