Felicita dropping golf, spa business when it reopens in May

Felicita Resort plans to reopen in May, seven months after closing. The Middle Paxton Township property will reopen as Felicita Gardens, a venue for functions such as weddings and corporate events. - (Photo / Amy Spangler)

Years of losing money at Felicita Resort had to end, according to its owner.

But that’s led him to a new business model that will be introduced when the secluded resort reopens in May.

The resort has lost money just about every year since owner Richard Angino, 73, opened it in 1997, he said, with a high of about $1 million a year. In 2013, he said, the resort lost about $200,000.

Angino, a prominent Harrisburg attorney and real estate investor, said 2013 was the “one last chance” season for golf at Felicita, but the annual course management cost of $500,000 to $750,000 did not get close to being recouped at the 18-hole course. He didn’t say how much was lost, and he also wouldn’t say how much he’s lost in total on the resort since it opened.

Felicita sits on 800 acres Angino and his wife, Alice, amassed since they bought 55 acres at the Middle Paxton Township site in 1971 to build a home. Over the years, the couple acquired more adjacent land along Fishing Creek Valley Road, culminating in 1997, when they bought the 335 acres of Blue Mountain Golf Club for about $2.8 million, according to county records.

“There are people that make mistakes and never learn from them, and there are other people that learn from their mistakes,” Angino said. “Although (Felicita) lost much more money earlier than it has recently, I had to refashion. I asked myself, ‘What do I have at Felicita that no one else has?’ The answer was the gardens. That’s where we will emphasize in the future.”

Angino said the spa, lodges and dining facilities will be closed, and the resort — now called Felicita Gardens — will be a “special events resort.” The club did not allow the approximately 30 remaining members to renew their memberships for 2014.

Teeing up changes

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It’s the second golf course to close this offseason in Dauphin County, as Hershey Links closed for expansion at Milton Hershey School. The school bought the course in 2006.

“I think I speak for everyone in the golf community when I say we all don’t want to see courses close,” said Harrisburg District Golf Association Vice President John McNair. “Essentially they are businesses just like any other business and face the same challenges in an ever-changing economy and marketplace.”

Rick Dunlap, a spokesman for the Hershey Harrisburg Regional Visitors Bureau, said Felicita’s course and resort are overshadowed by the Hershey resorts in Derry Township.

Michael Sadowski

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