Catskill Game Farm for sale in pandemic, staffing issues take their toll

CATSKILL — The Catskill Game Farm is up for sale again, and the selling price is now $3.6 million, according to a web listing by real estate broker Corcoran Country Living.

A real estate company purchased the property in 2020 for less than $2 million.

Jeanne Rakowski, associate broker at Corcoran, said the property went on the market five weeks ago and has attracted considerable interest from serious buyers, particularly property developers.

“It’s centrally located,” Rakowski said. “It’s 200 acres and it can accommodate a significant amount of housing there, housing needed and wanted.”

Interested parties included locals, but mostly out-of-town buyers, she said.

The game farm, which spans approximately 200 acres, was once the largest private zoo in America. Opened by Roland Lindermann in 1933, it closed on Columbus Day 2006 after 73 years, due to plummeting attendance and high overhead.

After years of disrepair, parts of the site were renovated after it was purchased by Cathy Ballone and her husband Ben in January 2012, who turned it into a boutique hotel in the former home of the giraffes. They put it on the market in 2020 for just under $2 million.

Known as the Old Catskill Game Farm and Boutique Inn, it is now owned by Sid Blauner, owner of a Yonker-based real estate company, Blauner’s LLC, which also owns properties in Westchester and Sullivan counties, as well as the Texas and Florida.

Blauner said he was putting the property on the market due to the COVID-19 pandemic. He cited staff shortages that have affected employers nationwide and rising gas, fuel and feed costs and infrastructure costs.

“We struggled to maintain staffing levels last summer,” Blauner said. He estimated that the facilities employ around 12 people during the peak season from spring to fall, with a smaller crew remaining for the winter. “We are a real estate company, not a hotel company,” he said.

The decision to sell was not driven by a lack of business, as the glamping cabins and six-bedroom hostel sold out nightly during peak season, with rooms renting on average for $250 a night. , did he declare. Many guests came for the nostalgia factor and many shared memories of visiting Catskill Game Farm, sometimes bursting into tears as they browsed the site, he added.

More recently, when the highly contagious omicron variant arrived in late 2021, Blauner decided to rent out the entire hostel to single-family families on Airbnb for around $1,000 to $1,500 per night to families.

“But with the kids at school, we only have full occupancy on the weekends,” Blauner said.

Blauner has fond memories of his visit to the zoo as a child, especially the petting zoo. “My favorite memory was that you used to feed the animals, being run over by sheep and goats and laughing hysterically,” he said.

A visit to the Catskill Game Farm was once a right of passage for generations of children growing up in the Mid-Hudson Valley, Capital Region and beyond.

He said nostalgia is what prompted him to buy it in the first place in November 2020 after it was operated by Cathy Ballone and her husband Ben, who opened the Long Neck Inn in the former home giraffes.

Blauner once considered keeping the property for a very long time. “It’s something I thought I could own in my twilight years, but I see it’s too big a project,” he said. “You need the right person.”

He said that although he never considered bringing back exotic animals like tigers and giraffes that sparked memories for generations of children, he had domesticated livestock like cows, chickens and goats. on the spot.

Now that he is looking for a buyer, he hopes they will share his appreciation for the game farm’s special place in history and work to preserve it in perpetuity. He said he didn’t want it to become a private compound for a billionaire.

But he warned he was unable to put such a provision into an act.

The game farm is hitting a hot real estate market in the Hudson Valley, Blauner said, adding that many buyers looking for high-end properties are moving east from the San Francisco Bay Area and of Los Angeles in an effort to escape an ever-expanding wildfire season. . And that’s in addition to the many transplants that have moved here from New York, especially during the pandemic, he added. “These buyers are looking for properties over $2 million to $3 million,” Blauner said.

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