COLUMBUS – Former members of a club almost a century old were invited to join the East Mississippi Community College family Monday, as the Columbus Country Club became Lion Hills.
EMCC officials issued invitations to a private reception at the club in a letter sent Oct. 18. The invitation described the club's new direction and purpose and included a fee schedule. But Monday was the first chance for former Columbus Country Club members to meet with EMCC since the college purchased the land and facilities Oct. 5 in U.S. Bankruptcy Court.
The transfer of ownership is official Nov. 1.
“We want to turn this into something you’ll be proud to be a part of,” EMCC President Dr. Rick Young told the gathered members.
Appetizers for the evening were prepared by students in EMCC’s Culinary Arts and Hotel-Restaurant Management programs, which will relocate to Lion Hills in August 2013, along with a new Recreational and Golf Turf Management program and the EMCC golf team.
EMCC Golden Triangle campus vice president Dr. Paul Miller said the $1.6 million EMCC paid for the Columbus Country Club not only bought the school 150 acres of professionally landscaped property, it also saved money. He noted that a 20,000-square-foot building would cost far more than $1.6 million to build in today’s economy.
“This will free up some much-needed space at the Golden Triangle campus, where Hotel-Restaurant Management and Culinary Arts are currently located, while preventing the closure of a Columbus business that has served this community for a very long time,” said Miller.
Member Woodie Byars, an officer of the Men’s Golf Association fund-raising group at the Columbus Country Club, expressed his gratitude at the end of Monday evening’s question-and-answer session.
“We appreciate EMCC and look forward to helping you,” he said.
Don West, a lifetime country club member who sat on the board of directors before the club changed hands, said old members are taking a financial loss, but are still happy to see EMCC buy the property.
“Members are losing over $1 million we’ve loaned to the club to keep it open. And these are not rich folks who don’t need or deserve help. These are caring, down-to-earth people who wanted to provide this environment and facility for the community and for what it does in terms of promoting the community to corporations considering locating here,” said West.
EMCC officials have expressed their desire to retain the current staff at Lion Hills during the transition from a private club to a public center for education and recreation. The existing kitchen and wait staff will remain on hand to help create an upscale dining atmosphere, but work in tandem with EMCC students and faculty to provide educational opportunities and work experience in food service and customer service.
“We’re willing to go as far as making sure existing staff receives the necessary certifications to assist the faculty in teaching students,” said Miller.
Likewise, the current groundskeeping staff will continue its duties while partnering with Turf Management students and faculty to provide opportunities for hands-on learning.
Retaining current employees will ensure existing services such as hosting civic meetings, banquets, wedding receptions, seminars and other events currently on the calendar continue without interruption at Lion Hills. And its status as the EMCC golf team’s home course will bring more golf tournaments to Columbus.
Access to the golf course will remain open to patrons and the public. New features will include the construction of a driving range and leasing a fleet of brand-new, custom golf carts, as well as repairs to course bunkers and the irrigation system.
Golf instruction will be available for people who want to learn the game.
Flexible pricing packages allow fees to be paid on an annual, quarterly or per-use basis. Prices on annual and quarterly packages have been reduced and further discounts are available to EMCC alumni, current students, active-duty military and EMCC employees.
A family package, with unlimited access to all outdoor recreation at Lion Hills, is available for $1,800 a year or $475 a quarter. A corporate plan available to businesses allows any four employees of a patron business to use the club at one time. Packages are available for individual patrons and plans may be customized to include access to only the golf course or only the swimming pool and tennis courts.
In the near future, the restaurant will open to the public, with service that includes Friday and Saturday dinner and Sunday brunch.
Custom facilities will be built or renovated for the academic programs. The one-year certificate Culinary Arts program and two-year, associate degree Hotel-Restaurant Management program will be housed adjacent to the kitchen in the main building. The new, Mississippi Community College Board-approved Recreational and Golf Turf Management program will be housed in a new building on property adjacent to the golf course.
For more information about Lion Hills, ccontact Debby Gard, EMCC vice president for Business Operations and Lion Hills Center, at (662) 328-4837 or firstname.lastname@example.org.