The city of Whitehall received less than a windfall in ridding itself of a massive inflatable dome last week, but it gained something it considers more valuable than money: marketable real estate in a prime location.
Although an online auction to sell the former Four Seasons Golf Center's 86,000-square-foot, 85-foot-tall inflatable dome on East Broad Street netted just $1,750, Whitehall officials aren't worried.
"Sure, we had hoped for a little more money, but we are happy it is going away -- at the buyer's expense, I might add -- and we wish (the buyer) well," Whitehall Development Director Zach Woodruff said after a two-week online auction administered by Auction Ohio closed July 18.
The golf dome -- which the auction site said could cost up to $750,000 new -- had served as central Ohio's only indoor driving range until Four Seasons, 5000 E. Broad St., shut down Feb. 28.
"Now, we can move on to the important goal of developing this land," Woodruff said.
The city intends to use about 13 of the 37 acres for development, including medical offices; the remainder will be absorbed into Whitehall Community Park, Woodruff said.
The auction followed a legal dispute in which the city reached an agreement to terminate a lease with Michigan-based Four Seasons.
The city purchased the facility from a previous operator, Family Golf, for $550,000, according to former Mayor John Wolfe, who helped broker the deal, and the city in turn leased the facility to a new operator.
Four Seasons had leased 37 acres on the north side of East Broad Street, east of North Hamilton Road, from the city since 2001, renewing the lease multiple times.
But according to Whitehall officials, Four Seasons missed a deadline to renew it and the lease expired March 31, 2016.
City officials said then "it was not in the best interest" of the city to renew the lease.
Four Seasons filed a complaint March 23, 2016, in Franklin Common Pleas Court, citing the city's verbal indication that it would renew the lease and asking the court to compel the city to renew it; Whitehall asked the court to require Four Seasons to vacate the property.
Four Seasons remained in operation during the dispute.
In December 2016, both parties reached an agreement in which the city would pay Four Seasons $250,000 and it would cease operations by Feb. 28 and vacate the property by March 7.
In addition to the inflatable dome, the center's 18-hole miniature golf course and other property also were sold.
Ten lots were auctioned; they included glass-panel garage doors, ornamental grasses, landscaping rocks and lighting from the former golf center's driving range and parking lots.
Together, the 10 lots sold for $3,288. Whitehall will see far less than that after Auction Ohio takes 30 percent as compensation for overseeing the auction.
But Woodruff said the city is pleased that someone else will bear the cost of disassembling the structure and removing all the property at the site.
"We're not that surprised (at the amount); we had hoped for more, but we know there is a big cost to move it," said Woodruff, adding the city had explored the possibility but the estimated cost "gave us pause."
Woodruff said he estimates it would have cost the city about $54,000 just to remove the dome, let alone the other salvageable property.
"The key is we are getting rid of it at no expense to us," he said.