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Stirling Club members unhappy about pending club closure

Members of the private Stirling Club at Turnberry Place say they feel like they had a carrot dangled in front of them to buy into the luxury condo community on Paradise Road, only to have it taken away by the Florida developers.

The 80,000-square-foot club was marketed as the centerpiece of Turnberry Place, with a restaurant once run by celebrity chef Charlie Palmer, full-service bar and lounge, swimming pool and spa, tennis courts, fitness center, and cigar and wine room.

Turnberry Associates sent a letter to employees notifying them that the club would stop operations on May 18 due to business circumstances. About 100 employees will lose their jobs.

“The closure does not reflect on the performance of the service professionals at the club,” Turnberry Hotel Group president Scott Rohm said in the Feb. 8 letter. “The last few years have been hectic with various groups interested in purchasing the club and the future unknown for you. I appreciate your hard work and efforts and your continued focus on serving our guests.”

Turnberry attorney Mario Romine said the Stirling Club was indeed used as a marketing tool for sales, but it’s also operated as a business that was losing money.

“We were going to increase annual dues and as a result of that, they terminated their contract,” Romine said Thursday from Florida.

Robert Tyre, president of Turnberry Place’s master homeowners association, said owners of the 772 units in four towers did not cancel their memberships. They’re obligated by HOA bylaws to pay $400 a month in membership dues for the Stirling Club.

“They fired the employees, but they have not sent us any notice of closure. We’re not aware of any canceled agreement with us,” Tyre said. “We don’t want the club to close, but they think we’re desperate and we’ll pay anything. Why would we pay you more? So you can make more when you sell the club? What do we get? You get to keep the club.”

Tyre said he’s been told the homeowners represent 80 percent of the revenue at Stirling Club, though Turnberry has provided no insight or transparency to financial statements. They’ve also cut off charge accounts for members, who must now pay with cash or credit card.

Turnberry’s management is “playing a game of poker they might lose,” said Stephen Siegel, owner of Siegel Group and resident of Turnberry Place since 2005. They’re holding employees “hostage” in negotiations with homeowners to purchase the club, he said.

“The price they want is just outrageous, so they thought they’d just close it down and get the homeowners to come to the table to pay more money,” Siegel said. “That’s not going to happen.”

Siegel said an investment group of homeowners has been negotiating for a couple of years to acquire the club for $5 million to $6 million.

Romine said the club was offered at about one-fourth of construction cost, and that each of the homeowners at Turnberry Place would have to come in with roughly $20,000 to $25,000 to buy the club. That’s $15 million to $18 million.

Turnberry’s master association is “hog-tied” by covenants, codes and regulations that limit the association from taking on more than $100,000 in debt, said John Delibos, a resident since 2006 and member of the Stirling Club since 2002.

Delibos said homeowners tendered a good-faith offer for the club, but Turnberry management didn’t want to talk about it.

Stirling Club has more than 1,300 members still paying dues, including nonresidents who purchased social memberships for $2,500, general manager Mike Saye said.

Aventura, Fla.-based Turnberry Associates, founded by Don Soffer and managed by his son, Jeffrey, was forced into bankruptcy with the $3 billion Fontainebleau project on the Strip and defaulted on the $750 million Town Square retail and office center on Las Vegas Boulevard. The developers also lost Turnberry Tower West on Karen Avenue to foreclosure.

Contact reporter Hubble Smith at hsmith@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0491.

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