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Monday, 12 June 2017 03:00

Nonprofit acquires Lowell golf course to house Kent County Youth Fair

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LOWELL — The group behind the Kent County Youth Fair will buy Deer Run Golf Club in Lowell Charter Township with plans to turn the 140-acre site into its new fairgrounds by 2020, MiBiz has learned.

The Kent County Youth Agricultural Association (KCYAA) has signed a purchase agreement with current owner KAMAK VII LLC and expects to take possession of the property after the golf course’s lease ends in spring 2019.  

The acquisition will allow the fair operators to expand their event-hosting capabilities, according to Jon Bieneman, president of the KCYAA. 

“You can’t just be functional one week a year. You’ve got to have stuff going on the rest of the year, just from a financial aspect,” Bieneman told MiBiz. “It’s going to allow us to grow and develop some of the things we’ve already done. We’ve done a great job of expanding our events, but (the deal allows us) to be able to host those, whether it’s a horse show or a great wedding.” 

In addition to fairgrounds, KCYAA plans to open the property year-round for meetings, community events, private parties and camping. 

The Kent County Youth Fair, which has been held for years at Lowell-owned property at 225 S. Hudson St., focuses on exposing youths to farm animals, agricultural exhibits and arts. With just 19 acres available for the annual event, the Kent County Youth Fair outgrew its existing site.

Annual attendance to the fair has been about 50,000 over the past three years, up from 35,000 in 2013, according to organizers. 

To fund the purchase, the nonprofit KCYAA secured a $2.5 million grant from the Michigan Economic Development Corp. It also received funding from the Wege Foundation and the Chemical Bank Foundation, as well as from community members.

According to Kent County property records, KAMAK bought the property from Runny Run LLC in April 2014 for $861,000. The property previously sold for $2.2 million in 2004. The site consists of two buildings built in 1973 and it had a taxable value of nearly $424,000.

Township records indicate KAMAK paid $19,792.48 in total property taxes last year. 

KAMAK is registered to Steven Vander Ziel of Lowell. 

Deer Run will continue to operate its golf and banquet facility as usual until the lease expires in 2019, General Manager Toni Versluys told MiBiz.

Bieneman said that the property owners had been longtime supporters of the Kent County Youth Fair and recognized that the fair could bring significant value to the property. He declined to provide a total acquisition price and was unable to offer a breakdown of the funding sources at the time this report went to press. 

In addition to acquiring the land, the KCYAA plans to embark on a multi-phase, $5 million capital campaign aimed at getting in place the necessary infrastructure such as roadways, barns and facilities. With funds raised in the capital campaign, the group also plans to build new barns, horse facilities and a campground.

“Obviously, we recognized that when we sought a potential location, it wasn’t going to have … fair infrastructure,” Bieneman said. “We sought out some corporations and foundations and we’ll continue on that. Now that we have an opportunity with a piece of land, we can kind of plant our flag and get after the rest of the fundraising.”  

Read 1389 times Last modified on Monday, 12 June 2017 06:17
Nick Manes

Staff writer

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