Tom Weickardt is spending millions of his own money to
renovate the Mequon Country Club.
taking something thatís broken and trying to make it work in a
broken industry, a broken time on a broken piece of property."
With those less than encouraging words, Tom Weickardt sums up his
daunting task of transforming the Mequon Country Club into the River
Club of Mequon.
65-year-old Whitefish Bay resident, who has defied convention before,
taking up auto racing on the Le Mans circuit when he was in his early
50s, still walks around smiling these days when talking about the
massive project he has created.
Milwaukee Custer High graduate, left Wisconsin 40 years ago to start a
manufacturing business in North Carolina. After selling the company
for a multimillion dollar profit, he returned to his home state 15
Last fall, he
purchased 155 acres of land owned by Mequon Country Club, seeking to
develop 19 of those acres. He purchased the club for $1.5 million,
originally hoping to make a profit from a quick resale. Some local
homeowners fought the development and Concordia University, the top
prospect to buy the land, could not finalize the purchase in the
Weickardt, despite the economy and a steady decline in the numbers of
people playing golf, decided to go all-in on a total remake of the
were embarrassed to be members here," Weickardt says. "The
facilities were getting so dilapidated. You wouldnít have brought
business clients here because you would have had to apologize for the
environment you were bringing them to."
An army of
workers now buzzes around the grounds. A new roof has been installed
along with a new electric panel, heating system and kitchen.
two tennis courts and refurbished the four existing courts, completely
renovated the pool and added "thousands of feet" to the pool
deck for a kidsí splash park.
There will be
brand new menís and womenís locker rooms, a new clubhouse and pro
shop, restaurant, "Nines," and a gastro pub, both of which
will be open to the public.
Marty Peck, a local lighting specialist whose clients include the
Mitchell Park Domes, to install a state-of-the-art LED lighting system
in the 450-seat expanded banquet facility, and commissioned a local
artist to produce everything from wall art to the countertops at the
Off of the
banquet area there is a special brideís room and a 4,000-square-foot
outdoor deck. There is a game room, with two golf simulators and other
interactive games, a room where parents can leave their kids while
golfing or dining ó and given iPads in the restaurant to monitor
their activities on closed circuit cameras.
going to be the place to be to have an event in Milwaukee,"
groundskeepers have been hired to maintain the clubís 27 holes and
Josh Pius, a highly respected assistant professional in suburban
Chicago, has been brought in as the head pro.
A project on
this scale usually takes months of planning, bids and blueprints, but
Weickardt (who is also resurfacing the streets surrounding the club)
dove in at full speed and is targeting Aug. 1 as a finishing date.
means is it costs more money," says Weickardt who says he is
spending "many, many millions."
The club has
attracted 150 new members and now has a total of 350. Weickardt says
his goal is 375 golf and 150 pool memberships and adds "we could
be at capacity next year."
By opening the
restaurant and banquet facilities to the public, Weickardt hopes to
generate outside revenue to keep member dues "at a level
acceptable to a lot of young families."
With his massive
initial investment, Weickardt expects to lose money in 2012 but hopes
to be in the black by next year.
"This is a
casually elegant private club committed to personal service. I need a
wow factor. I didnít want something that wasnít well thought of. I
want to give people a club they can be proud of. "