August 7, 2010
College explores selling Antlers lodge
Alumni concerned about developer’s inquiry to turn Adirondack camp into hotel
SUNY Cortland’s Auxiliary Services Corp. has no plans right now to sell Antlers, the lodge that serves as part of its Raquette Lake facilities, despite worries by some alumni.
College President Erik Bitterbaum said this week that a developer asked about purchasing the lodge from ASC and converting it back into a hotel.
About 100 alumni — some of them upset about the idea — told the college through phone calls and e-mails in recent weeks that they wanted to hear more about why ASC would part with the 5-acre property, which is valued at $900,000.
One e-mail, telling alumni to rally against any sale, asked if the college would next try to sell Huntington Memorial Camp, the Adirondack Great Camp it uses for recreation classes and other college functions.
Camp Huntington and Antlers are part of SUNY Cortland’s Center for Environmental and Outdoor Education and used for student activities, classes for recreation majors, college functions and renting to alumni.
Antlers lodge sits on Raquette Lake’s shore off a main road. Camp Huntington is across the lake and accessible only by boat or, in the winter, by ice.
A former hotel, Antlers houses about 45 people and has a dining area and kitchen but no staff or programming. It is rented mostly by alumni and seldom used by students, Bitterbaum said.
Bitterbaum said he informed the campus community — faculty, students, alumni — in February about the offer from the unidentified developer.
“The building needs a great deal of repair, so that would take away some of its value. A review of the past 25 years shows Antlers has lost money every year during that time,” Bitterbaum said. “We have looked into selling it before, but the time has never been right. For one thing, we need about 18 or 19 easements, such as continued access to the dock area for our boats going to Camp Huntington, and storage areas.”
An alumni group called Save Antlers at RL sent out an e-mail two weeks ago, saying the college’s possibly selling the lodge was shortsighted and detrimental to past and future students.
The group asked for a feasibility study to be done, and urged the college community to contact ASC’s Board of Directors, the College Council and the Alumni Association to express their concerns.
Bitterbaum said he met with about 50 alumni July 31 after a ceremony to name a cabin at Camp Huntington after Jack Sheltmire, the longtime camp director who recently retired. He said some alumni at the dedication were upset with the idea of selling Antlers while others thought it made sense.
Money from the sale would be used to form an endowment to help students and alumni pay to stay at Camp Huntington, he said. Factoring in the land’s value and what the ASC would save by not owning Antlers, he said the sale could be worth $2 million to the college.
“About 80 percent of our students are on some kind of aid, and an endowment would help more students experience the Adirondacks,” Bitterbaum said.
He said the developer wanted to add a two-car garage, a conference center and an office.
“We’re still in the process of talking about it,” he said. “ASC’s board (of directors) has to explore this some more. Even though ASC is connected to our college, the board does not always do what we wish it would.”
Joanne Barry, ASC board president, said she has spoken with about eight alumni concerning the situation. She said the board has not really discussed any proposals to sell Antlers.
“My understanding is, Antlers is not much utilized,” she said. “I know the building needs a lot of work.”
Judith Przybyla, an organizer of Save Antlers, did not respond to an interview request.
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