The Minnewaska Resort and Country Club † is a former resort in the Borscht Belt of the Catskill Mountains of New York that was in operation from 1903 to 2009.


History

In 1901, Charles Slutsky acquired land at the base of the Shawangunk Mountains and farmed the land. 13 Gradually, Charles’ began to take in boarders and began constructing several cottages on the farm in 1903 to house them. 15 The Nevele Falls Farm House was built and styled in the Mission Revival architectural style with wings added in the 1920’s and 1930’s.

Joseph, Charles’ oldest son, suggested that they divide the farm in 1906. 13 The land was divided equally, with Charles receiving the land that the Fallsview Hotel was built upon and Joseph receiving the land that the Minnewaska was later erected on. The Minnewaska later became the Minnewaska Resort and Country Club. 18

The Slutsky continued to farm the land until 1938. 13

In the mid-1940’s, a three hole golf course was constructed. 9 It was later expanded to nine-holes.

The Vacationer Wing and the Waikiki Indoor Pool, both designed by architect Sydne Schleman, were added in 1954. The Golden Gate and Empire wings, designed by architect Herbert D. Phillips, were constructed in 1956. The Golden Gate and Empire additions were linked to the main hotel via underground tunnels.

Phillips also designed a new grand lobby and Empire Wing for Minnewaska that followed other influential hotel designs of his former employer, Morris Lapidus, who had worked at other Catskill resorts.

In 1964, Phillips, then a partner at the New York firm Viola, Bernard & Phillips, designed the ten-story dodecahedron-sided Minnewaska Tower. 2 3 The circular tower was designed to minimize travel between different functions of the resort that had plagued other Catskill facilities.

It also included the construction of the Stardust and Safari Lounges that connected Minnewaska Tower to the lobby.

In 1966, President Johnson visited the region with then-Congressman Joseph Resnick for several appearances. 21 He chose to stay at the Minnewaska Resort because it was the only place in the area that could provide him with 100 rooms and security that was required. Johnson requested to stay at the Minnewaska Tower.

To accommodate the president, the resort called people with reservations and asked them to delay coming. 21 Everyone was cordial about the situation except for one person, a member of the Democratic National Committee. The individual complained so bitterly to the hotel clerk that the clerk suggested he take it out on the president. The man proceeded to call the White House to vent. A spokesman for Johnson called the Minnewaska Resort and said that if the hotel could not accommodate the man to his satisfaction, the president would not stay there.

The Minnewaska Resort made arrangements and shortly afterward, a front page story was run in the New York Times that stated the president had saved the individual’s vacation. 21

In 1970, a distinctive ski chalet was added to the rear of the property. Designed by Dennis Jurow, the two-story building featured glulam wood beams that swept upward to a line of skylights, a sheltered skating rink that doubled as a roller rink in the warmer months, snack bar, skate and ski shop and an expansive lobby with seating around fireplaces.

The golf course was redesigned by Robert Trent Jones and Tom Fazio in 1984 2 20 and expanded to 18-holes. In 1996, the Robert Trent Jones-designed Blue course was acquired on the adjoining Fallsview Resort. 2 20

At its height, Minnewaska featured 430 rooms and employed 800. 15 The complex was divided into distinct areas:

  • Lobby and Empire Wing to the east of the lobby
  • Colonnades Wing
  • Pennsylvanian Wing
  • Minnewaska Tower 2 3
  • Stardust and Safari Lounges
  • Continental restaurant, Luncheonette and coffee bar 11
  • Convention center with capacity up to 900 in an auditorium 12
  • Waikiki Indoor Swimming Pool and Health Club 10
  • Indoor and outdoor tennis and racquetball courts 10
  • Boating and fishing 10
  • Equestrian trails 10
  • Ski Chalet and Ski Slope
  • Golf Course and Pro Shop 9

Decline

The Minnewaska Resort was a part of the “Borscht Belt,” an area once distinguished by scores of Jewish summer resort hotels, cabin colonies and camps. 1 Tourism peaked after World War II when massive resort facilities were built in the countryside.

By the 1960’s, tourism in the “Borscht Belt” had entered a decline. 1 Air travel was becoming increasingly convenient and cheap and the advent of interstate highways made long distance automobile travel easier.

To appeal to a wider clientele, the Nevele dropped adhering to kosher dietary laws, offering bacon at breakfast, shrimp cocktails at lunch and creamy lobster thermidor at dinner. 22

The Slutsky family sold Minnewaska and Fallsview to Fred Kassner in 1997. 18 Kassner then combined the two resorts into the Minnewaska Grande Resort. Kassner died in 1998. The resort was bought from his estate by Joel S. Hoffman of the Stratford Business Corporation and his partner, Mitchell Wolff, in March 2000 for $15.8 million.

The Minnewaska Grande Resort, while still generating a profit, only had an occupancy rate of 40%. 18 After a careful study, Hoffman and Wolff began work on a $10 million renovation project for the property in a bid to help it attract corporate guests while keeping its traditional Jewish clientele. Work included upgrading and expanding its meeting rooms and conference center, refurbishing all 682 hotel rooms in six buildings and enhancing the lobbies, corridors, elevators and recreational facilities. The work, which was designed by the architectural firm of Adache Associates of Fort Lauderdale, Florida, was completed by March 2001.

The Minnewaska Grande was facing financial troubles by 2006 and the Fallsview Resort was sold. 5 13 The Fallsview Resort later reopened as the Honors Haven Resort and Spa while Minnewaska Grande operated separately.

By early 2008, the Minnewaska Grande only boasted a 28% occupancy rate but managed a net profit of $2.5 million per year. 19 In March, the resort was listed for sale for $26.5 million.

Owners Mitchell Wolff and Joel Hoffman failed to pay taxes on the resort amid additional financial troubles and poor reviews. 6 Much of the resort had fallen into disrepair and much of the facility had no heat or hot water and there was water leaks and mold throughout the complex. 13 A convention held by LimmudNY, a Jewish learning convention, was forced to end early in 2009 due to the hotel conditions.

The Minnewaska Grande Resort closed without notice on July 5, 2009. 4

An auction of the property was set for September 2 but was cancelled the day prior because a buyer was allegedly found. 7 The hotel was never sold and Hoffman attempted to generate revenue by selling timber on 100 acres of the property and allowing Nextel to continue to lease the top of the Minnewaska Tower for cellular antennas. 6

On March 26, 2010, Wolff was granted ownership of the hotel by New York State Supreme Court Judge Mary Wonk after Hoffman failed to pay Wolff an earlier $2 million judgement. Wolf had earlier sold Hoffman 99% control of Minnewaska Grande in exchange for a lifetime of health benefits, which Hoffman immediately reneged.

Redevelopment

Michael Treanor, via Minnewaska Investors LLC, a subsidiary of Claremont Partners Limited, purchased the abandoned resort. 16 Shortly after in May 2012, Treanor announced that the Minnewaska Grande would be redeveloped into a resort and casino. 8 The $582 million project hinged on the state allowing casino gaming via the Upstate New York Gaming Economic Development Act of 2013. 14

The proposal, designed by Nevada-based Wilday Architects, New York City-based Holzman Moss Bottino Architecture and Buffalo-based Foit-Albert Associates, called for the construction of a 300,200 square-foot building with 83,100 square-foot dedicated to 2,000 slot machines and 80 table games, and a six-story Westin-flagged hotel with two wings and 446 units. 14 The Minnewaska Tower would remain and be rebranded the LBJ Tower, and a portion of the Empire wing would be salvaged. The new resort would feature a spa and fitness center, banquet and meeting rooms, a night club and several restaurants, including the Old Homestead Steakhouse. The proposal also included an ice arena, ski slopes, a swimming pool, tennis courts, horseback riding trails, zip lines and an 18-hole golf course.

It is estimated that in the first year, $99 million in taxes and fees would be paid to the state, including the gaming tax, sales tax, income tax and gaming fees. 14 The county would receive $9.8 million in sales, occupancy taxes and gaming tax revenues and the township would receive $5.2 million in gaming tax revenue and fees. The new resort would employ between 2,250 and 2,440 new workers.

In November 2013, voters passed the Upstate New York Gaming Economic Development Act, an amendment to the state constitution to allow for gambling. 14 It was expected that the new Minnewaska resort would open by November 2016.

The proposal for the new Minnewaska resort to become one of the state’s four new casinos failed in December 2014. 16

In February 2015, Treanor announced that the resort would be demolished for the proposed $165 million Minnewaska ProSport Campus. 16 17 The project would entail the construction of four regulation professional-sized baseball fields, four youth baseball fields, batting cages and six multipurpose soccer fields that could double for lacrosse and field hockey.

The resort itself would be rebuilt with 467 hotel rooms with restaurants, a 40,000 square-foot conference center, an 18-hole golf course with golf school, an indoor spa, swimming pools and waterpark, skiing, ice skating. 16 As with the prior proposal with the casino, the Minnewaska Tower would remain and be rebranded the LBJ Tower, and a portion of the Empire wing would be salvaged. 16

Additionally, Treanor appealed to Governor Cuomo’s office for support for legislative approval to operate 750 video lottery terminals at the resort. 17 It followed discussions in December 2014 by Assemblyman Kevin Cahill who called on the state legislature to reconsider his legislation to allow for video lottery terminals at Pine Grove Ranch and Hudson Valley Resort & Spa.

Demolition was projected to begin by July or August 2016. 16 Renovations would have followed on the Minnewaska Tower as would construction of the new hotel and related facilities. The ProSport Campus would be finished by September 2018.

In September 2017, Treanor announced that the ProSport Campus and associated resort would open by March 2020. 8 Treanor announced a month later that he had secured $313 million in financing, 24 but in November, the Minnewaska Resort was listed for sale for $8 million. 23

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