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Maranatha EXCLUSIVE: Wu Backs Out of Project, Says Richmondville "Should be Ashamed"

Written By Editor on 11/25/13 | 11/25/13


After months of negotiations between the Town of Richmondville and New York City entrepreneur Da-Lai Wu concerning the $5 million Maranatha project, which current owner Stella McKenna was recently served notice of foreclosure on by the New York Business Development Corporation, it was decided Friday evening by Mr. Wu to end his perusal of the shuttered physical fitness center. 
 
Mr. Wu, who is the CEO and Director of Player Management with RUSH-N-CRUSH, originally came to the area to investigate the possibility of working in partnership with SUNY Cobleskill on developing local tennis programming by updating and using their tennis facilities based on his knowledge in the sport from both being a professional player and coach the past three decades. After estimating the college could repair their poor quality courts to U.S. Open standards with a price tag of $105,000, Mr. Wu expanded his horizons to visit neighboring facilities and to see if there was interest in the area for a tennis program when he discovered Maranatha in August.

Describing the troubled training facility's staff members as "awesome," while adding they are "people with the highest integrity," Mr. Wu soon learned of their plight and took an interest in Maranatha's troubles, which would reach critical mass when unpaid electric bills forced its initial closure, and would lead to Mr. Wu beginning his considerations of taking over the program with plans for extensive expansion of the project.

However, he immediately hit a brick wall - that being the Town of Richmondville government - with its public officials compiling a nine-point list of demands they expected Mr. Wu to meet before they agreed to sign a waiver request allowing his acquisition of the project, due because of the requirements attached to a $650,000 state grant Maranatha received.  
 
During this time he met with town officials over the extension of a $20,000 equipment audit, which he wanted to push back from next April to July, because he didn't want "all the debts to take capital" away from his investment during what he called the "critical market time for a fitness center," but the town wouldn't budge. And because of this, Mr. Wu estimated he lost anywhere from $120-150,000 in potential revenue because he could not open in October as he was originally planning and that he would now have to come up with approximately $250,000 to just "keep the place from sinking."
 
But that wouldn't be the end of it for Mr. Wu, who in an attempt to salvage the project, placed a request for a public meeting in October with the Town of Richmondville to discuss his proposed takeover of the facility. However, according to his account, Mr. Wu alleges that Richmondville Town Supervisor Richard Lape's response was that if he wanted a public meeting that he would have to be pay $15,000 first, presumably as collateral against one of Maranatha's outstanding debts, and then they would give him his meeting.
 
Shocked by the request, Mr. Wu contacted New York State Senator James Seward and after the legislator directly called the Richmondville Supervisor concerning the unusual $15,000 requirement for a meeting that it "disappeared," although a public hearing still wouldn't be held for three more weeks until the Tuesday after election day.
 
In the end, the "Town [of Richmondville] should be ashamed," said Mr. Wu as we concluded our comprehensive interview "because the whole community losses out." Despite his disappointment with how Maranatha turned out, Mr. Wu is currently involved in discussions with SUNY Cobleskill's PACE program to start a class in which he would instruct continuing education participants  on how to teach tennis for certification while additionally working to expand the college's program in the sport of his passion.  

The future of Maranatha is less certain now that Mr. Wu is out of the project and Ms. McKenna was served with foreclosure papers almost two weeks ago, leaving the Town of Richmondville with a $5 million building that could sit vacant for years while legal proceedings drag out and residents of both the Village and Town governments on the hook for over $50,000 worth of unpaid debts that they may very well have to pick up the tab for.
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1 comments:

MerlinMedic said...

Is there any truth to the rumor that as soon as the Town of Richmondville said they were not going to sign off on this & Mr. Wu pulled out that the State of NY slapped the Town with an "unscheduled" audit?

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