Rayburn Country Resort returns with new plans – Beaumont Enterprise

Rayburn Country Resort in Brookeland has returned with new ownership and plans for improvements months after the previous ownership closed the doors.

Management for the resort has revealed plans for new restaurant concepts, restored greens, new nightlife amenities for adults and even a lazy river as a part of a revitalization plan for the resort.

Joe Penland Jr. of Beaumont bought out the former ownership group with the help of family investors earlier in the year in an attempt to broker an agreement between the community homeowners association and kick off the return of the resort.

“I knew I just wanted it to survive so future generations can enjoy it,” he said.

Penland also owns a home in Rayburn Country and said he and his family have frequented the resort most of his life.

When the doors closed early this year after the ownership group and homeowners couldn’t reach an agreement about dues for the continued upkeep of the amenities, he said he was among the people concerned about not just the future of the resort, but also the continued growth of the community.

Now, the HOA has agreed to pay fees in exchange for access and discounts at Rayburn Country Resort’s soon-to-be expanded offerings.

Related: Rayburn Country closes doors, community awaits impact

Parts of the resort have already been reopened, including the golf course, hotel and recreation areas, after crews did some quick repair and restoration work.

Penland said the next phase will be to reopen the restaurant, which is already about six weeks into construction. The proposed plans released by the resort call for a renovated restaurant with patio bar called Sammy Ray’s, a pizza concept called Cheesy’s Pizza and a cafe with patio called Black Gold Coffee.

Food service is expected to be handled in-house, but there could also be opportunities to contract out catering.

There are also plans for hiking and biking trails, a bar and game room, a spa and fitness room and other improvements aimed at increasing visitor traffic and improving self-sustainability for the resort.

Some of those projects are expected to be completed by next summer.

Rayburn Country was built in 1968 as a centerpiece to the master plan community that would come to encompass 3,300 acres of lakefront property. The 14,000-square-foot clubhouse, a golf course designed by the renowned Robert Trent Jones, a hotel and the addition of a swimming pool were designed to give added benefits to the residents there while drawing more people to paradise in the pines.

In 2010, the main homeowners group, Rayburn Country Association, sold the amenities to a private group after conditions started to decline and the upkeep seemed untenable for an HOA to handle.

Several investors, most of whom were residents, including Walter Umphrey of the Provost Umphrey law firm, pooled about $3.2 million to purchase the assets and reportedly invested another $15 million in renovations. These investors formed a group called Rayburn Country Redevelopment and worked with the associations for homeowners, condos and timeshares in an effort to grow the community again.

Penland said the efforts of the last group helped maintain and even grow parts of the resort to this point and laid a foundation for where he plans to take it in the future.

“What those partners did 10 years ago was huge for our area,” he said. “Now, we need to take what they did and enhance it.”

Before the resort was sold, earlier analysis of the club’s performance showed a rosy picture for the future if a management group and homeowners could work together on its success.

Troon, an international golf resort and property management company headquartered in Scottsdale, Arizona, calculated that the club would need to take in a minimum of $1.75 million yearly to remain successful, and highlighted lodging and golf excursion packages as a key area that could help make that possible.

“The bottom line is that without any operating subsidy, the club is currently not in a position to remain financially viable,” the Troon representative wrote in the report. “That being said, with the proper operating discipline and a renewed focus on marketing, the club can be returned to self-sufficiency and, ultimately, profitability.”




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