A week after securing the winning bid for the Whitehall armory, Gregory Gross has already immersed himself in the process of transforming the historic building into an upscale athletic club.
Gross, who secured the keys to the building with a winning bid of $165,000 during a public auction held at the Canal Corp. Visitors Center on Sept. 20, is eyeing the club as an anchor and stabilizing factor for a new golf facility along theMettoweeRiver.
For the past several months, Gross has been building a links-style golf course on 67 acres of land he owns on Gray Lane.
Although crews just completed the first six holes last week, Gross ultimately envisions the Whitehall Field Club, as he calls it, being a full 18-hole course. However its location on a seldom-traveled back road a mile from Route 4 is somewhat problematic.
“I have this fantastic course but people won’t know it’s there. The armory would serve as the clubhouse,” Gross said. “Because of the price it went for at auction, I can achieve a huge savings over building a standing facility at the field club. I’m thrilled because of the location. The building is fantastic but the location is even better.”
Gross said he estimates nearly a half million people drive by the armory on an annual basis and because of its location along a corridor that serves as both a gateway to the lakes region in the summer and Vermont’s ski resorts in the winter, it has year-round exposure.
Ultimately he envisions on creating a full service athletic club with squash courts, an indoor swimming pool, saunas, cardiovascular equipment, weights and locker rooms.
He said his primary market would be athletically oriented adults between the ages of 21 and 55, primarily from an area stretching from Washington County in the north to Warren and Saratoga counties in the west, Albany to the south and Rutland and Bennington counties to the east.
And while it may take several weeks before he can access the building as all the requisite paperwork is reviewed and finalized, he has already begun to prioritize what needs to be done.
He said the first thing he will do is clean up the building and return some reconfigured offices on the right hand side of the building to its original layout.
After that he plans to explore the feasibility of squash courts, an indoor pool and the construction of guest rooms that would be capable of housing 10 to 12 people.
He said he’s already begun to research fitness equipment and will need to get back in the building after he assumes ownership to get a better look at the electric and plumbing systems.
Although an athletic club is expected to be the primary use of the building, it wouldn’t be its’ only function.
“The drill hall has the potential to be a concert and banquet space,” Gross said, estimating about 650 people could fit in the space.
He said he hopes to have the building cleaned by December and ready to host events shortly thereafter.
Gross would also like to purchase authentic-era furniture, install signage and if resources allow for it, replace the chain-link fence with a wrought iron fence, in addition to other landscaping.
He said other than the storage of some agricultural equipment he has on his property atGray Lane, he has no short-term plans for the maintenance shed, and may consider renting it.
Gross said no matter what he does, he plans to maintain the historic qualities of the building.
He describes himself as “into older properties” and owns the historic Highline Ski Lodge on Killington, an 1787 farm in Hubbardton, as well as his primary residence inTuxedoPark, which was built in 1891.
Gross said it took 14 months to renovate the Killington property and expects the armory to be fully transformed into the Whitehall Athletic Club by this time next year and plans to hire a local staff.
Although he’s still determining exactly how it will work, the club could be based on a system of equity membership where members would eventually purchase a stake for a set amount of money and then potentially pay annual dues.
Members of the athletic club would also have benefits at the field club.
Gross said he plans to build more holes at the club after he has had a chance to see how much business he can drum up.
He’s invited several hundred insurance executives to the course for an outing next month that could go a long way in establishing an early membership base.
“It should be a good litmus test to see if people will drive that far (from the capital district),” he said.