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(Beloit, WI) By Jim Leute, Gazette

Diane Hendricks' purchase of the troubled Country Club of Beloit is no gimme to the community she cares so much about. One of her many companies, Hendricks Commercial Properties, didn't buy the club last week with any sense of altruism. It did so with a clear business plan to reinvigorate one of the oldest country clubs in Wisconsin.

“Diane said to me, 'Let's buy it and make it the best private club in the area,'” said Rob Gerbitz, president and chief operating officer of the company that manages and owns more than 15 million square feet of real estate properties in 39 states. “That's what we're going to do.”

Like many private clubs, the Country Club of Beloit had been struggling with increasing competition and declining membership.

“A lot of private clubs are governed by board members facing a lot of issues, and when times get tough, they respond by slashing expenses so far that it ruins the private club experience,” Gerbitz said. “Then, when everything's been cut to the bone, you have members wondering why they're spending big bucks to be members.

“Beloit's problems are not original. We don't want to, but we could buy 50 clubs.”

The club, which opened more than 100 years ago, will be renamed the Beloit Club. Construction could start as early as next month on a new clubhouse that will be designed by the company that did the clubhouse for Erin Hills, the course just west of Milwaukee that will be the site of the 2017 U.S. Open.

The clubhouse will have a separate area for weddings and private parties so regular member functions can go on as planned, said Gerbitz, who worked for the company that developed Erin Hills before he joined Hendricks Commercial Properties. The Beloit Club will feature a new “family-friendly” swimming pool, he said. The golf course will also undergo significant maintenance work. “We'll do some tree work, sand trap maintenance and a few other tweaks,” Gerbitz said.

In terms of playability, the Beloit Club won't become the next Erin Hills. “That's a whole different deal,” he said. “There are not that many true championship courses in the country, and there are even fewer championship courses that are U.S. Open courses. “We'll certainly toughen it up, but we want it to be a fun place to play.”

Gerbitz said rumors have circulated that the country club was going to become a subdivision or gravel pit. "We didn't want to see it go the bank route, where someone buys it for nothing and then who knows what will happen,” Gerbitz said. “It's an important asset for businesses in Rock County."

“I've said it many times, but in the case of Beloit, how many communities of 38,000 have as many multi-billion dollar companies headquartered here as we do?”

Hendricks said she was saddened to hear of the club's demise. She's excited, however, with the prospects for the future. “It's a necessary club,” she said. “Companies in this area are hiring and growing, and we need to meet the needs of all walks of life."

“This will be a place that our executives and young professionals want to take their families, friends and associates.”

Gerbitz said the management team is now working on a rate structure for 2015.

The challenge, he said, is to make it affordable while still maintaining some sense of exclusivity. “We need to be clear that this is a for-profit business,” he said. “We're working on the rates now, and we're using data from a lot of sources and clubs.”

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