County course finds new life after grass-roots effort to save it

The Storm Family Group buys Wanaki Golf Course in Menomonee Falls after community rallies around course
  • Wanaki Golf Course

A big renovation is coming to a golf course in Wisconsin that was originally scheduled to close but was saved at the last minute thanks to a grass-roots effort and a long-time golf operator in the region. 

Wanaki Golf Course in Menomonee Falls, a county-owned course, was slated to close in 2019, but the grass-roots organization, Save Wanaki Group, gathered 6,000 signatures and submitted a petition to keep it open for another year. 

The group then had one year to sell the course or Waukesha County would consider bids for uses other than golf. 

“We saved it,” said Joe Vachuska, co-founder of the Save Wanaki Group. “Eleven months ago, we had like a zero chance of doing that.”

Storm Family Group, a known entity in the Milwaukee-area golf industry, stepped in and the county commissioners voted unanimously on June 23 to a purchase agreement, just one week before it was scheduled to accept other land uses. 

The purchase agreement includes a stipulation that the private operator must run the site as a golf course for four years after the sale. 

“This agreement fulfills the goals we have had all along — preservation of golf in Waukesha County while protecting taxpayers’ investment,” said Waukesha County Executive Paul Farrow said in a statement. “This sale will allow residents to continue to enjoy a beloved golf course while allowing Waukesha County to maintain operations and fund improvements at its other two courses.”

Waukesha County has been losing money on the course since 2001.  Officials were previously cited in the Business Journal saying year to year losses ranged from $41,000 to $243,000 which depleted the county's golf course reserve fund.

“I know that the county can’t run it. Everyone wants it as a golf course,” said County Supervisor Timothy Dondlinger, who represents residents near the Wanaki property.

The course had been listed for $1.52 million according to the Journal-Sentinel. The purchase includes the eighteen-hole golf course and equipment, maintenance facilities, carts and storage facilities, putting green and clubhouse with pro shop, bar and grill, locker rooms and restrooms.

Storm Family Group told a local newspaper that the first order of business will be obtaining a liquor license and expanding the clubhouse. After that, the menu will be redone to bring a “whole new level of food” to the golf course. The group also plans to improve the grounds and lighting. Overall, it plans $645,000 in updates.

The Storm family has owned and operated golf courses and facilities in the greater Milwaukee area for sixty-eight years, the Journal-Sentinel reported, including Brookfield Hills Golf Course and Storm’s Golf Range in Brookfield, Wis.; the Missing Links Golf Course and Driving Range in Mequon, Wis.; and Northwestern Golf Course in Deerfield, Wis.

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