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Northwest nirvana: Champions Club generates $20 million in sales, membership.

NORTHWEST NIRVANA

Champions Club Generates $20 Million In Sales, Memberships

After years of drawing a good paycheck or cashing in on valuable stock options, some northwest Arkansas residents yearning for a lavish lifestyle might have found their Nirvana.

It is Champions Golf and Country Club near Rogers, a sprawling development nestled in 600 acres of rolling hills about five miles west of Rogers in Benton County. It costs a lot of money to belong to the club and, from the size of the membership roll, plenty of people are willing to part with it.

In fact, Champions smells like money, all the way from the bottom step on up through the lavish double doors and onto the marble floor.

The $4 million clubhouse, in all of its 54,000 SF of splendor, has about $1.5 million in furnishings and decorations. Walls, tables, chairs and bars are made of cherry and mahagony wood. The china and place settings are all embossed with the Champions logo and, believe it or not, the fittings on the toilets, urinals and sinks are made of brass.

Brass?

Well, the fixtures on the sinks in the locker rooms are gold-plated, one member points out proudly.

"Give Them What They Want"

"We've been listening to the people and giving them just what they want, like any good business should do," says Marios Renteria, a Kansas native and a founder of Champions. "We're attracting people who do want elegance, expensive things and nice surroundings."

A caddy service for the $5 million golf course will begin soon, Renteria says, "because the people want it."

Regular memberships good for all club privileges cost $20,000 (excluding monthly dues of $125 and a restaurant minimum of $50 a month), but those memberships have been sold out for months.

A lifetime membership costs $60,000 while a corporate membership goes for $50,000 plus $125 in monthly dues. For $2,500, one can purchase a tennis-only membership or the dining/swimming membership for $1,500.

Sales are going so well that the only way to join now is to purchase a homesite on some of the boulevards -- Razorback Road, Fiddlestick Trail, Wimbledon Way, etc. -- that wind around the club.

Lots range in size from one-fourth of an acre to one-and-a-half acres. Selling prices are anywhere from $40,000 to $400,000 and the seller will throw in a regular membership to Champions.

Since breaking ground in April of 1989, Champions has been opening in stages. The 18-hole golf course opened last June and the club shelled out $750,000 to host the Greg Norman Challenge. Big-time jocks like Larry Bird, Wayne Gretsky and Ivan Lendl showed up, too.

A swimming pool, six tennis courts and a nine-hole golf course now are under construction.

Who's Who List

Champions' membership roll, which appears in the club's bi-monthly newsletter, is a business person's Who's Who and includes the names of Sam and Alice Walton; James Keenan of Pace Industries; J.B. Hunt and family members; some executives from Tyson Foods and some of Wal-Mart's upper crust.

"It would be hard to find names like that on any membership roster," Renteria points out. "I don't care where you come from."

In the locker rooms, wet and dry saunas run constantly. Cotton robes, emblazoned with the Champions logo, hang inside every shower stall. Toiletries such as shaving cream, deoderant, toothpaste, mouthwash, and brushes are a few of the items supplied by the club.

While they may be rich and pampered, most of the members are just plain folks.

"You'd think they'd be kind of uppity," confides an employee who asked not to be named, "but they're not. They're down to earth and real nice."

Champions features three dining rooms, from casual to opulent, and a banquet room that can accomodate 150 people. On Thursday nights, the piano bar is host to a sing-along (lyrics provided, of course).

Renteria says that 60 homes -- with prices ranging from $250,000 to $500,000 -- have been built around Champions and estimates that the number may reach 600 by the end of the decade.

Champions has netted $20 million in sales (memberships and homesites) over the last two years and grosses another $250,000 each month in food and beverage sales and monthly dues.

None of this, Renteria says, is a bit too lavish for northwest Arkansas:

"We knew something like this would be a success, but we didn't know exactly where.

"We had no idea the economy was so strong here. Obviously, Wal-Mart and Tyson's are the keys, directly or indirectly, to the success of the club, but I think we've proven that a lot of northwest Arkansas wanted something like this."

PHOTO : REACHING FOR THE STARS: Hockey star Wayne Gretsky lines up a putt as he helps Champions Country Club near Rogers initiate its $5 million golf course earlier this year. Other celebrities like basketball player Larry Bird and tennis player Ivan Lendl have helped Champions generate more than $20 million in sales in the past two years.

PHOTO : PART OF THE TEAM: Golfer Greg Norman's name was used for a celebrity golf tournament at Champions, where property and membership sales are booming.

Stephen Steed is a free-lance writer who lives in Fayetteville.
COPYRIGHT 1990 Journal Publishing, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1990 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Champions Golf and Country Club
Author:Steed, Stephen
Publication:Arkansas Business
Date:Dec 31, 1990
Words:875
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