Rocky Gap funds secured, keeping golf course alive Western Md. lands final $2 million ahead of deadline


The $46 million Rocky Gap Golf Course and Conference Center has the final money it needs to move ahead -- two days before the project faced failure.

Tomorrow was the deadline set by the General Assembly for securing the last $2 million in financing needed to go ahead with the project, which has been a symbol for future economic development for Western Maryland.

"This is the green light," said state Delegate Casper R. Taylor Jr., D-Allegany, who is considered the driving force behind the project. "It's a dream that has been dreamt for quite a long time and is about to come true."

Six investors yesterday committed $10 million for the 240-room hotel and conference center and the Jack Nicklaus signature golf course, which will be built on land in Rocky Gap State Park, just a few miles east of Cumberland.

"Maryland residents and out-of-state visitors are going to make Rocky Gap a success," Gov. William Donald Schaefer said. "With a great location and the will of the investors and supporters, NTC Rocky Gap will mark a positive turning point for economic development efforts in Western Maryland."

The final $2 million came from Operating Engineers of Baltimore and the Western Maryland Building Trades Council, said Page W. Boinset, a spokeswoman for the governor.

Other investors in the $10 million equity commitment are the Barker-Patrinely Group of Houston, $2.5 million; Allegany County, million; and the Appalachian Regional Commission and the Anker Energy of Morgantown, W.Va., $1 million each.

Numerous times the project seemed doomed, but this time it appears that work will move forward. The state earmarked $7.2 million for the conference center, but would not release that money until project planners could secure a commitment

for equity by tomorrow.

Most of the remaining money will come from a consortium of Maryland banks.

Construction of the golf course is expected to start in the spring of 1992, with construction of the conference center to begin in the fall of 1992. The project is expected to be finished by spring of 1994, officials said.

With the recent completion of Interstate 68, Western Maryland officials believe Rocky Gap will be attractive to both Baltimore and Washington-area vacationers, in addition to tourists from Pittsburgh and the Ohio Valley west.

State Sen. John J. Hafer, R-Allegany, said the project "will be great for the economic development of Western Maryland. It's been down to the wire a few times, but the fact that the financing has now been done makes me very happy."

Western Maryland has lost thousands of industrial jobs over the past 20 years, most recently when the Kelly-Springfield tire plant closed in 1986. Unemployment has hovered above 10 percent for much of the last few years, and Allegany County's population has dropped from 84,000 in 1970 to 75,000 in the latest census, as many young people left to find work elsewhere.

But officials now hope the new highway, along with the conference center, a new federal prison and a proposed state prison, will revive the economy and create jobs. The complex is expected to create more than 300 jobs.

"This is yet another piece of the total picture that Western Maryland is trying to paint" to rejuvenate the region, Mr. Taylor said.

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