Saint Andrews putting discount golf behind

Mon, Oct 13, 1997 (11:39 a.m.)

Saint Andrews Golf Corp. Chief Executive Officer Ron Boreta knows that a sports complex needs more than trophies to be a success.

When he hooked up with some big-time sports companies and took his tiny Las Vegas-based company public, he finally had the resources to leave behind his life in retail.

Boreta, 35, an avid golfer, worked with his father, Vaso Boreta, to manage the Las Vegas Discount Golf & Tennis chain of sporting goods stores.

In 1994, he formed Saint Andrews, which trades on Nasdaq under the symbol SAGC. Friday's closing price: $3.125 a share, down 6.25 cents.

After operating for several quarters at a loss, the company got out of the golf distribution business and in February sold the Las Vegas Discount Golf & Tennis franchise, keeping two Southern Nevada stores. The company went from about $313,000 in shareholder equity to $9.6 million. Suddenly, Saint Andrews had some muscle.

Saint Andrews put $4 million into the All-American SportPark, which will have 200 employees when it is completely staffed. Tenants and vendors put in another $18 million in equipment. Once two ice rinks are built, there would be close to $32 million invested in the facilities.

Las Vegas Discount Golf, which also trades on Nasdaq, is in the process of merging with Saint Andrews. When the merger is completed, a new company will be formed -- All-American Sport Park Inc. -- that will apply for a new Nasdaq listing. Vaso Boreta, who is chief executive for Las Vegas Discount Golf & Tennis, would resign and Ron Boreta will take over as head of the new company.

In early attempts to get the theme park built, Saint Andrews tried to acquire the vacant lot across the street from the Sahara hotel-casino for the park, but the deal fell through when William Bennett bought the Sahara and that land.

The California-based Callaway Golf Co. had an interest in the project when it was going to be based along the north Strip. When Saint Andrews abandoned that site and moved to Las Vegas Boulevard and Sunset Road, something clicked for Callaway.

"When he (Boreta) had an opportunity in the new location, it struck the right chord with us," said Kim Carpenter, executive vice president of golf development for Callaway. "At that point, we wanted to be more deeply involved in it."

Callaway got involved to the tune of a 20 percent ownership of the park's golf development and the management of the course, driving range and retail outlet.

Callaway distributes a line of golf products, but Carpenter said the company's bread and butter is in the design and development of golf clubs. With the high-tech performance center onsite, the company has an outlet for its custom clubs as well as a place to experiment with a new concept.

"The demographics are ideal for us," said Carpenter. "Las Vegas is a wonderful destination resort with 30 million visitors a year. They (visitors) have some time on their hands. We actually think a nine-hole experience is ideal for the people we reach. It doesn't take all day to play, they get a challenging hour and a half of golf in."

The center gives players an opportunity to use the product, Carpenter said, an important trend in retail today.

"Look at NikeTown," he said. "They let you put on the shoes and run around a little before buying them."

Boreta's next move was to lock up licenses with Major League Baseball and NASCAR. Both plans were no-brainers.

Major League Baseball generally writes a percentage deal on sale of merchandise with 11 percent being the traditional cut.

Boreta is looking forward to additional relationships with the National Basketball Association, the National Football League and groups interested in building two ice rinks at the park. He's also sorting through proposals from sports equipment companies that want to have a presence at the park.

"Ron Boreta has been the stimulus for this whole project," said Carpenter. "He's the one who made it happen."

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