Avalon buys New Castle Country Club

NANCY LOWRY | New Castle News

New Castle Country Club has been sold to Avalon Holding Co., a sale that club officials said was four years in the making.

NESHANNOCK TOWN­SHIP, Lawrence County – The New Castle Country Club has been sold.

The new owner is Avalon Holding Co. of Warren, Ohio, which owns three other golf courses, a tennis club and the Avalon Inn and Resort. They include Avalon at Buhl Park in Hermitage, formerly the Sharon Country Club, which it bought in 2006 then remodeled and expanded.

Ronald Klingle, the company’s CEO, said the Neshannock Township club “was purchased for its debt, about $800,000.”

Klingle, who will rename it Avalon Field Club at New Castle, said he expects to spend another $5 million on upgrades that will include a ballroom/banquet center that can accommodate 500 guests, a bigger bar, two restaurants, a resort-size swimming pool and a new, grand entrance off Clover Lane.

The final design for the improvements will be finished in about a year, he said, and the project will be completed in three to four years.

“We’re going to create a whole new world there,” Klingle said.

“This ensures the foreseeable future of the club,” club president Walter F. Kustra said. “It was founded in 1923 and will remain in perpetuity. The club will remain, and that was the objective of the founders,”

“We had to do it,” said former president Joseph George. “It is what the club needed.”

Acquiring the “neglected” Avalon Inn in Warren four years ago, Klingle transformed it into the Avalon Inn and Resort. Guests and members have access to three golf courses, two wellness centers, multiple restaurants, tennis courts and other amenities.

“We haven’t stopped construction or improvements,” he said.

He envisions doing the same for the New Castle club.

Klingle said he will not be closing the club during renovations, and will honor all events and bookings. But improvements will begin soon.

“We’ll look at the club house and determine what it needs, like improvements to the kitchen and Great Room, adding some equipment for the golf course, and above all a new entrance.”

Klingle believes the club entrance from Route 18, tucked between two car dealerships, is hard to find.

“We own some property in the Clover Road area and we’re planning a grand entrance there, an impressive, gated entrance with two lanes of traffic. The existing entrance can be a back-door entrance.”

“In one to two years,” he said, “we will have taken an almost 100-year-old country club dominated by golf with a little bit of social aspect with 200 to 300 members and convert it to a facility with a spectacular golf course, a new ballroom, a new resort-size swimming pool, spiff up the facility and grow it to 800 to 1,000 members.”

Klingle expects to see membership grow significantly, noting that he has about 5,000 members at Avalon Inn and Resort.

“First, I will cut club dues by one half, making club membership affordable to middle-class families,” he said. Current dues are $150 to $450 per month, depending on the membership level.

“In the past, country clubs were only for the well-to-do. Middle class families thought they could never afford country club memberships.”

The son of a middle-class family, Klingle said, his father knew he could not join the country club virtually in his neighborhood.

“I’ve had people thank me for creating something that they could enjoy,” he said. “I have created something that all people can enjoy and want to be a part of. And if you’re well-to-do, you’ll want to be a part of it too.”

Membership at the Avalon Field Club in New Castle will entitle members access to any of Avalon Holdings Corp. properties. They include Avalon Golf and Country Club in Warren, Ohio, which owns the Avalon Inn and Resort in Warren, Ohio, manages Avalon Lakes Golf Course in Warren, Avalon at Squaw Creek Golf Course in Vienna, Ohio, Avalon at Buhl Park in Hermitage, the former Boardman Tennis Club and fitness centers.

“We’ve grown in the last few years, and New Castle is the perfect place for an extension,” Klingle said. “It’s a beautiful place, an amazing golf course and a great overall facility. I’m excited about what this is going to be.”

The course was designed in 1923 by A. W. “Tillie” Tillinghast, one of the most prolific American golf course architects in the history of golf. He worked on more than 265 courses and was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2015.

Klingle believes this kind of recreational opportunity will draw business opportunities to the area.

“All of this improves the quality of life in the area,” he said.