A FAST growing leisure business has expanded into the golfing market by buying an 18-hole course as it looks to double in size.
Newcastle’s STR Enterprises, which is also planning a large hotel in Sunderland, hopes that growing a portfolio of golf courses will help it double its £6m turnover by 2013 and increase its 250-strong workforce.
It has just bought Wallsend Golf Club, now renamed Centurion Park, from North Tyneside Council for an undisclosed sum as it looks to expand its portfolio beyond bars and hotels.
The firm, which acquired the 170- acre site through its subsidiary Keeping Inn Ltd, is planning a major refurbishment of the club’s sports hall, floodlit driving range, conference centre and pub.
The family run company, which operates the Centurion bar at Newcastle Central Station, had been looking to buy a golf course for the last four years, but had not found a suitable site.
Managing director John Sanderson said: “Golf courses represent a big opportunity for us to grow the business as they provide a lot of extra land for development.
“Centurion Park is in a prime position off the Coast Road and will allow us to establish a large food-led pub that will attract both golfers and non-golfers. We will be looking to acquire similar sites over the coming years to grow our involvement in the sport, if they suit the business.”
The firm’s expansion plan also includes building a 100 bedroom hotel in Sunderland and it is putting together a planning application.
The £5m hotel would face the River Wear, adjacent to its Quayside Exchange conference and banqueting centre at Wylam Wharf, and would cater for the high end of the three-star market.
“Sunderland is very under-hotelled and the new site would provide amazing views over the river,” Mr Sanderson said. “It’s a beautiful spot and we are hoping to begin work soon.”
The firm is also refurbishing a number of its sites after releasing cash through the refinancing of Centurion bar in 2006 with the help of Allied Irish Bank (GB). These include the Victoria Hotel in Bamburgh in Northumberland, which is adding 10 rooms to its existing 37. It is also giving a facelift to its Honest Lawyer hotel and gastro-pub in Croxdale, near Durham.
The company was set up in 1996 by Mr Sanderson and his wife Elizabeth after the purchase of the Victoria Hotel. They now own six sites, including the Manor House Hotel and Country Club in West Auckland, which they operate with the help of sons Jason, Christopher and Richard.
“Although we are aware of the current economic situation affecting the leisure market we still believe we have a wide enough range to keep on growing the business,” Mr Sanderson said. “The golf course will help us to expand even more.”