CATSKILL — New attractions will be coming to the former Catskill Game Farm under the guidance of new owners.
The 200-acre site was home to more than 2,000 animals, including the celebrated giraffe named April, from 1933 until the business closed in 2006 after 73 years of operation.
Former owners Ben and Cathy Ballone purchased the property in 2012 for $100,000. They offered self-guided tours, camping and transformed the former giraffe house into a luxurious inn.
In November, the Game Farm changed hands again, to a group of investors from New York City for $1.9 million.
General Manager Moshe Toledo said the property is in good hands.
“Sid Blauner purchased this place Nov. 17,” Toledo said. “He has childhood memories coming here as a kid with his parents.”
Blauner has more than 30 years of experience in real estate and has developed other properties such as the Eagle’s Nest in Bloomingburg, a small village in Sullivan County, Toledo said.
“Sid Blauner, he’s the type of guy, he’s not only here for the money, but here for the good cause — jobs, create business and bring this place that was sort of dying to life again,” Toledo said.
Other key partners in the venture include Daniel Bishop and Drew Wolf, Toledo said.
Mountain biking, archery and miniature golf are some of the new attractions eyed for the destination. A playground, barbecues, fish pond and gym are on the drawing board, too, Toledo said.
Animal attractions will return to the Game Farm for the first time in more than a decade.
The new owners have purchased two horses, which are stabled at Bailiwick Ranch in Catskill, Toledo said. The horses will be brought to the Game Farm and horseback riding will be another feature. Other critters to join the team include peacocks, poultry, goats and cows.
More rooms will be added to the premises, expanding on the five-room Long Neck Inn opened by the Ballones.
The owners are planning to renovate the goat house and create five new rooms, Toledo said.
“We’re going to make it sort of like high-end rooms on top of the mountain, overlooking the beautiful scenery,” he said.
The Long Neck Inn is also receiving some attention.
“We definitely have improved the facility in terms of accommodations to the guests,” Toledo said. “Perks like breakfast, bakery goods.”
Emphasis is being placed on supporting local businesses, Toledo said, adding that the baked goods come from Catskill Mountain Bakery in Leeds.
“We like to use the local entrepreneurs and get them involved in this project,” he said. “We try to purchase in this county, which is important.”
The owners have also winterized the Tentrr camp sites on the property, so they can be booked year-round, Toledo said.
“It’s exciting to be a part of this legacy and have a chance to make a difference in this county,” Toledo said, adding that the group is prepared to take the property to the next level.
The old Game Farm may become a venue for events such as weddings or concerts in the post-COVID world, Toledo said.
Greene County Tourism Director Heather Bagshaw is excited to see what the new owners have in store, she said.
“We’re very excited for the new ownership and the expanded ideas that they have for the property,” Bagshaw said. “They’re looking to utilize the majority of property but do it in phases over the next five-plus years. We’re excited for the new opportunities for visitors to do in Greene County.”
Catskill Town Supervisor Dale Finch agreed.
“It’s nice to see new investment come back to Catskill and revitalize that property,” Finch said. “It has big potential of becoming a destination again. Bringing tourism to Catskill is great.”
The Ballones parted ways with the Game Farm in November, after nine years.
“We want to thank you all for your tremendous support and following over the course of the nine years we have had the privilege of owning this local landmark,” the Ballones said in a statement in November. “It is with a heavy heart that we have decided to shift our focus to other endeavors.”
Cathy Ballone plans to focus on her wedding planning business, Cathy’s Elegant Events, according to the statement.
“We have full confidence that the new owners will be able to fulfill the dreams we had laid out for the property and continue to uphold the historic significance and integrity of the Old Catskill Game Farm,” according to the statement. “We hope that you will show the same support for the new owners as they continue to preserve the history of the property while creating a new and exciting property business for the Catskill region.”