Golf courses close — and developers see green

Plus: Wells chops 400 jobs in Minnesota; Local home-sale prices jump 10%; Charlotte meteorologist parodies Cam's swag on Instagram

Good morning! Today is Monday, August 12, 2019.

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Golf-course glut: Courses in the Carolinas have been ‘overbuilt,’ and redeveloping them is on the upswing

The Carolinas are widely known for golf, from historic Pinehurst to the wide selection of courses by the beach to Charlotte’s annual Wells Fargo Championship.

As popular as you might think golf is around these parts, though, the sad truth is that there aren’t enough golfers to sustain all the courses. Many are closing — and developers are swooping in.

There are several reasons for the decline, from construction of courses that were built to sell houses instead of succeed on their own, to the waning of Tiger Woods’ popularity, to the lack of interest among young people. (Millennials can shoulder the blame for almost anything.) The number of golfers has fallen 20% since 2003.

A piece last week by Carolina Public Press dove into some of the numbers:

North Carolina’s 675,000 active golfers have 496 courses to choose from, 42 fewer than they had a decade ago, according to an analysis by Kelly Cederberg, a professional landscape architect who studies golf course redevelopment as part of her role as an adjunct faculty at the University of Arizona in Tucson.

Same for South Carolina, according to a piece this summer by the Charleston Post and Courier:

Closings of golf courses have been most common in Horry County, where so many courses are concentrated. About 20 courses have closed in recent years in the Myrtle Beach area, leaving about 80 courses to serve the area’s customers. Demand for golf rounds has not grown as quickly as the Myrtle Beach course inventory, said Terry Sedalik, executive director of the S.C. Golf Course Owners Association. 

“They were overbuilt, obviously, for the cycle we’re in,” Sedalik said.

Resorts such as Pinehurst still attract golfers, but the number of courses in the Carolinas is falling. The land is often more valuable for shops and houses. (Photo courtesy of Pinehurst Resort.)

In many cases, golf courses built years ago now occupy prime real estate — land that is more valuable for shops and houses than for sand traps and putting greens. Around the Carolinas, developers are getting to work:

  • In Ballantyne, Northwood Office has proposed converting parts of the golf course behind the Ballantyne hotel into a mix of apartments, shops and a town center design with an amphitheater and green space. The company is seeking a rezoning from the city for the plan.

  • In east Charlotte, near I-485 and Albemarle Road, developer Meritage Homes bought the former Larkhaven Golf Club this year and plans to build about 350 homes on the site.

  • In south Charlotte, developer Lincoln Harris is building Rea Farms, a massive mixed-use development, on land that was formerly Charlotte Golf Links. It closed in 2014.

  • In Fort Mill, Meritage Homes is building housing on the former Regents Park course.

  • Outside Charleston, neighbors are rebelling against developers’ plans to build more than 200 houses on the site of a golf course that closed last year, The Golf Club of South Carolina at Crickentree.

Thought bubble: This might sound like blasphemy, but will there ever come a time when it makes sense to redevelop golf courses closer to uptown? Courses are usually in the 120-200 acre range. They are green space, but they are not really open to most people. Think what might become of the land on Myers Park Country Club’s course. Or Charlotte Country Club’s in Plaza-Midwood.


Latest Wells cutbacks: Minnesota

Wells Fargo is cutting 400 jobs at a customer-service center in Minnesota, the latest in a string of bank cutbacks as it seeks to rein in expenses.

The Minneapolis Star-Tribune reported Saturday:

A company spokeswoman said Friday the decision to shrink the center, where about 200 or so people work in a call center and dozens more interact with customers via computer, came after a recent business review.

A bank spokeswoman told the paper that “the work will be absorbed by other domestic contact center locations.”

The bank employs about 16,000 in Minneapolis-St. Paul. The move follows the layoff of about 120 Minnesota workers that were “part of payroll-services business that it sold to another firm,” the paper said. The San Francisco Chronicle reported last week that the bank is also slimming down in the San Francisco area.

Closer to home, Wells last month sold off its retirement-plan business to Principal Financial Group. A deal to sell its real estate investment banking division, Eastdil Secured, is expected to close by the end of the year.

In the banks’s 2Q earnings call, interim CEO Allen Parker said the bank is “pursuing business simplification, so we can concentrate our efforts on businesses where we believe we have the leadership position that’s required for us to excel long-term.” He also said, “We’re all very focused on our level of expenses.”

Wells Fargo, headquartered in San Francisco, is Charlotte’s second-largest private employer, with about 25,000 workers here.


Meteorologist forecast: lots of Cam Newton drip

Just in time for the start of football season, Fox 46 meteorologist Nick Kosir is back with his “drip chronicles,” in which he parodies the outfit and pose of Panthers QB Cam Newton on Instagram. Here’s his latest installment from over the weekend:

We got drip for sale! 🤠💧😂 #dripchronicles (Check our my story for the outfit DIY) •
🤟🏻
Tag someone that’s excited football season has FINALLY started! •
🏈
In all seriousness, I’d like to wish @cameron1newton, @alexarmah and the rest of the @panthers best of luck this season. Let’s get this chip! 🏆
💪🏻
Photo Cred: @daniellekosir_tv
📸
#drip #dripdrip #keeppounding #cam #camnewton #panthers #nfl #swag #swagger #ootd #clt #charlotte #charlottenc #northcarolina #southcarolina #carolinapanthers #football #fashion #ootdmen #gq #dapperday #funny #funnypictures #dripordrown @panthers #queencity #qc #704 #carolina @cameron1newton
August 10, 2019

A CharlotteFive article from last year explains that Kosir started posing as Newton because his TV bosses wanted employees to post popular content on social media: “I saw he had like 30,000 likes. I thought to myself, ‘I wish it was that easy, where I could just take a picture of whatever I was wearing that day and get 30,000 likes.’ My boss would love me forever.”

Vocab lesson: If you’re not hip to the lingo, “drip” means “swag, often used to describe one’s outfit,” CharlotteFive reports.


Real estate prices rise at fastest pace in a year

Mecklenburg County housing sales in July continued to follow a familiar pattern.

In the usually busy summer season, the number of closings fell yet again compared with July 2018, according to data released last week by the Charlotte Regional Realtor Association. But the median sales price increased for the seventh straight month — this time by more than 10%, to $350,000. That’s the biggest percentage jump in at least a year.

Tight supply, rising prices in Mecklenburg. Source: Charlotte Regional Realtor Association.

It still looks like a seller’s market. But if you sell, can you afford to move anywhere else?


Panthers ticket fiasco ahead?

The NFL is switching to fully digital ticketing for all 32 teams — which sounds like a smart and forward-looking idea. But expect some rough patches as ticket-holders become accustomed to the new technology required to get into the stadium.

The Panthers’ first home game with 100% digital tickets is a preseason game Friday night. That means that tens of thousands of Panthers fans — not all of them sober at game time — will have to download an app for the first time on their smartphones, log in, navigate through the app, and display the tickets on their phones for entry. If you’re transferring or selling your tickets — which will be common, as this is a preseason game against the Bills we’re talking about here — the recipient has to have a Ticketmaster account and log into it to accept them.

Can you imagine all that going off flawlessly? Me neither.

Extra help: The Observer reports that the Panthers have hired six guest-relations employees dedicated to help PSL owners figure out mobile ticketing. The team will also deploy about 80 workers on game days to “walk fans through their uncertainties.” No matter how much the team prepares, though, issues will almost certainly arise.

The Cleveland Browns added workers at their stadium on Thursday at the team’s preseason home opener. But it wasn’t enough to help some long-suffering Browns fans get in easily, according to a Cleveland TV station:

A new mobile ticket policy at FirstEnergy Stadium led to some frustrated Cleveland Browns fans at Thursday’s preseason game. …

Steven Fender of Ashtabula came to the game with seven other people, including relatives from out of state. He said he likes mobile tickets, since he’s able to pull up one ticket and swipe through for each person with him. But on Thursday, he had trouble with getting the tickets to work.

“Yeah, it’s not loading right now for some reason,” Fender said. “I have full bars on my phone.” …

Keri Russell, a season ticket holder, was so frustrated that she broke into tears while on the phone with her mother outside the stadium.

“Kickoff is literally in eight minutes, and it’s my first year with season tickets,” Russell said in an interview with News 5. “They’re just telling me there’s nothing they can do.”

Talk about a factory of sadness.

Similar glitches afflicted Baltimore Ravens fans last year when the team rolled out all-digital tickets.

Best advice: If you’re headed to a Panthers game, don’t wait until the last minute to figure out how to show your tickets, even if you are a 24-year-old computer programmer. It takes a little time. Ditto if you want to transfer or sell your tickets to somebody else.

Instructions and a Q&A from the Panthers about the new process is here.


Reader response

Time to dig into that ol’ digital mailbag again. Have a comment? Write to editor@cltledger.com.

In response to “Are developers warming to affordable housing?”:

  • “80% of median gross income is the easy thing to do but not where the need exists. Let’s help the ones below 50%. Let’s create a local rental subsidy to help the already cost-burdened renters living in naturally occurring affordable housing live in their current unit.”

  • “Nothing like rent-control to make a city more livable! Kudos to the forward thinkers!”

In response to “Behold: renderings of first N.C. sportsbook”:

  • “If only they would make that sportsbook smoke-free. But I’m sure they won’t. Which will make that place disgusting by opening weekend.”

In response to “The truth about ‘unlimited PTO’”:

  • “The real issue of unlimited PTO is that folks end up using less. It’s quite the well-designed trap!”

  • “If they had this unlimited PTO in my day, I would have held down two full-time jobs. At least.”


In brief:

  • Looking for a house? A full-page ad in the current SouthPark magazine shows a 5-bedroom, 6.2-bath, 9,106-s.f. house for sale on Baltusrol Lane on the Quail Hollow Club golf course. It has a garage that can fit your eight cars as well as “architectural and design influences throughout” that are “primarily Mediterranean from the coastal areas of France, Spain and Italy.” Asking price: $5.65M. County real-estate records show it is owned by somebody named Felix Sabates. (Zillow has tons of photos.)

  • N.C. in contention for big auto plant: Indian carmaker Mahindra Automotive North America is looking for a spot to build a plant that could employ as many as 2,000 workers. North Carolina is on the list. So is South Carolina. And Michigan. Plus Texas and Arizona. (Observer)

  • Church rebranding? Myers Park Baptist is about to wrestle with dropping “Baptist” from its name, the Observer reports. The “progressive-thinking” church across from Queens University hired a brand-consulting firm that found that “Baptist” connotes “conservative,” “strict in terms of scriptural interpretation,” “possessing an obedience to God,” and “judgmental.” “It’s so, so bad,” the church’s senior minister tells the paper.


Correction

An article in Friday’s Ledger misspelled the name of Cushman & Wakefield managing principal Brett Gray.


Taking stock

Unless you are a day trader, checking your stocks daily is unhealthy. So how about weekly? How local stocks of note fared last week (through Friday’s close), and year to date:


Got a news tip? Think we missed something? Drop me a line at editor@cltledger.com and let me know.

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The Charlotte Ledger is an e-newsletter and web site publishing timely, informative, and interesting local business news and analysis Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, except holidays and as noted. We strive for fairness and accuracy and will correct all known errors. The content reflects the independent editorial judgment of The Charlotte Ledger. Any advertising, paid marketing, or sponsored content will be clearly labeled.

The Charlotte Ledger is published by Tony Mecia, an award-winning former Charlotte Observer business reporter and editor. He lives in Charlotte with his wife and three children.