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Old Borscht Belt Resort in Catskills May Become a Youth Sports Complex

16 Dec, 2015

By: Tracey Schelmetic

Remember the old resorts in the Catskills, brought to life in movies like ‘Dirty Dancing?’ One of them may have a second life as a youth sports complex.

The storied old Nevele Hotel in Wawarsing in the Catskill Mountains in New York, once a summer get-away for residents of New York City, will not become a casino hotspot as originally planned. A plan to convert the property, which closed as a hotel in 2009, into a world-class casino went bust nearly a year ago when New York’s Gaming Facility Location Board chose a different site for the region’s only casino.

The bid was ultimately handed to Empire Resorts’ proposal for the Montreign Resort Casino, at the former Concord hotel site in the town of Thompson, New York. But the owner of the Nevele Hotel site hasn’t given up on turning the property into a hotspot. Michael Treanor recently revealed that he plans to turn the Catskill Mountain resort, which is located just outside Ellenville, New York, into a sports complex with a particular aim toward youth sports.

“We expect to turn Ellenville into a big sports hub for Ulster County and the New York metropolitan area,” Treanor said in a recent interview with local newspaper Daily Freeman News. “We want to be all about outdoors and sports.”

The Nevele Hotel, which opened in 1903, was the centerpiece jewel of the Borscht Belt, a series of summer resorts in the Catskill Mountains in parts of Sullivan, Orange and Ulster counties in upstate New York. The resorts were popular with middle-class Jewish residents of New York City. The property, which has fallen into disrepair, was purchased in 2012, and the new owner announced that it would undergo a $500 million redevelopment to turn it into a resort and casino.

The new project will be more modest: according to Treanor, it will be a $150 million redevelopment of the resort and include 460 hotel rooms and the purchase of roughly 130-acres of land adjoining the 580-acre resort for sports fields, according to the local Daily Freeman News reporter Patricia Doxsey. Its location could take advantage of the Catskills’ growing reputation as a sports and nature destination for the greater New York City area. Ellenville, New York is about a two-hour drive Manhattan.

Treanor said the proposal makes good sense, given how much parents are willing to spend today for their children’s youth sports travel teams. Youth travel teams are “a multibillion industry with parents spending up to 20 weekends a year traveling to cities across the country with one or more of their children,” Treanor said. “There are families in New York that will travel the entire eastern seaboard to participate in these showcase tournaments.”

Once finished, the property would offer four regulation professional baseball fields, four regulation Little League fields, locker rooms, dugout facility and viewing stands, as well as six multipurpose and long fields for soccer, lacrosse and field hockey competition, and a winter season ice hockey rink. It will also feature a $750,000 multi-acre outdoor park that will feature zip lines, a ski park, rock climbing facilities, trails golf course, indoor and outdoor pools, an indoor water park, skating, snow tubing, and other activities in the hopes of attracting visitors for year-round sports activities.

Local area officials seem to prefer the idea of a youth sporting complex with facilities for conventions to the original plan of a casino. Ellenville Mayor Jeff Kaplan pledged his community’s “110 percent support” in a recent e-mail to Treanor.

“This plan is so much more sustainable than a casino destination and far more beneficial for our community,” wrote Kaplan.

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