History of La Manga
La Manga Club started out close to the small Spanish village of Atamaria, located in a large valley, half surrounded and protected by a series of hills. Situated 100 metres above sea level and comprising several separate groups of houses, it forms part of the parish of El Rincon de San Gines in the municipality of Cartagena. Over the years and with the growth of mining in the area, Atamaria became a village of significant proportion with shops, schools and other services. At one time its population was larger than that of Los Belones.
The area started to become developed around 1928 with the construction of the gun battery on Las Canizas (Ash Hill) overlooking the bay of Portman. The guns were never fired in anger and the battery was closed down by the military some years ago. Many workers were required to build the battery, a number of whom decided that they would settle in the village with their families, bringing about a temporary increase in the population of Atamaria. At that time the majority of the inhabitants of the village were farmers and herdsmen. If we add to this the numerous workers employed in the many mines in the surrounding hills, it is easy to understand the population explosion that took place at that time.
The main source of water for agricultural purposes was rain and most agricultural activity was of the kind that did not require much water - grass for the animals, cereal crops such as wheat, barley and oats and the “negre” peas, for which it was famous. The tenant farmers also raised livestock - sheep, pigs and other smaller farm animals such as chickens, turkeys, and rabbit which they kept for themselves. All the work on the land was carried out by hand. It was not until around 1957/58 that the villagers bought a second-hand tractor, made in Germany.
With all the development that had taken place over the years and all the buildings that had been constructed to support these developments, the only one left standing is that formerly used as the farm labourers’ house. It was subsequently occupied by one of the estate administrators and was converted into riding stables in the mid 80’s. It became known as El Rancho, which is also the name of the community which was built on the surrounding land. The El Rancho community restored this building in 2009/10.
Mining in the Area
There are many historical references to mining, dating back as far as the ancient Phoenicians, Greeks, Carthaginians and Romans, who settled in the area thousands of years ago. The numerous mines are located in the hills that stretch from the city of Cartagena to the fishing port of Cabo de Palos.
More than 40,000 people were employed during the mining boom that started in the first half of the 19th century, sparked by the industrial revolution, when thousands of mining concessions were granted. The importance of mining was due not only to the variety of minerals but also to their quantity and quality, most notably in the case of lead (argentiferous galena). Significant quantities of silver, iron ore, calamine, blende (zinc) and manganese were also found throughout the area and, on a more transitory basis, tin, copper, barium sulphate and amethysts.
Up to 1960 Portman had a magnificent natural harbour, protected from the wind and surrounded by mountains. The water was deep enough for the docking of the ships coming to load minerals and lead ingots forged in the town’s foundries and to deliver coal from England. However, towards the end of the 50’s, the Lavadero Roberto mineral-washing plant was opened - one of Europe’s largest, processing 8,000 tons per day. Between 1957 and 1960 the plant dumped more than 50 million tons of mining waste into the bay, leaving the bay, its fishing port and its loading dock completely land-locked.
The Establishment of Atamaria S.A. and La Manga Campo de Golf S.A.
Towards the end of the sixties considerable interest was aroused by the frequent visits to the area by an American, Gregory Peters. One of the business enterprises on which he and his partners intended to embark was real estate. To this end they formed a company called Atamaria S.A., which would be responsible for the commercial development of the area and would manage any profits and increases in value resulting from the revaluation of the land. At the same time a separate company - La Manga Campo de Golf S.A. - was created to develop the golf courses and other sporting facilities.
Origin of Founder Membership
The concept was that all those who bought property on the development would also become shareholders in La Manga Campo de Golf S.A. and thereby participate in the project as “Founder Members”. This was very advantageous as the Company statutes specified that the use of the facilities was restricted solely to members and their friends. The promoters of the development agreed that there would be no more than 3,000 members and that one of the key benefits of being a “Founder Member” was free use of the facilities with the sole exception of the annual membership fee, which was still payable.
Construction of the First Two Golf Courses – South and North
When Robert Dean Putman was appointed to design the two golf courses for LMCG, he was given carte blanche to use the available land as he saw fit, the only condition being that the resulting courses should be of championship standard. Work began on marking out the courses in January 1971 and in February of the same year the diggers set to work to create the 14 lakes, 200 bunkers and 36 fairways and greens. Ten months later construction work was completed. The courses had been built in record time.
The West Course
The West Course was designed by Dave Thomas and was originally a nine-hole course. Construction started in 1986 and was completed in just nine months. At first it was called the Atamaria Course, as it was much closer than the other two courses to the site of the original village. However, the name was soon changed to La Princessa. In 1991 work began on a second nine-hole course, immediately adjacent to La Princessa. Initially it was called Las Sabinas but its name was later changed to La Princessa II. In 1996 after the two courses had been made into a single eighteen-hole course, it was renamed the West Course.
The Tennis and Leisure Centre
From the outset in 1971 there were plans to build several additional sports facilities including a sizeable tennis centre. Work on this centre started at the same time as the original golf courses and early housing developments. The majority of the tennis courts, the large swimming pool, a children’s play area and the tennis clubhouse were finished in time for the opening of the resort in April 1975.
At the beginning of 1985 David Lloyd took over as Director of the centre and the name was changed to the David Lloyd Racquet Centre. The tennis centre building was officially opened in May 1987, by which time a gymnasium, sauna, bar, restaurant and several additional facilities had been added. In addition to the tennis facilities there is a bowling green and there are also squash and paddle tennis courts.
In 1990 the name was changed again to the Oasis Tennis and Leisure Centre. It has since reverted to the La Manga Club Tennis Centre. In December 1990 it became a member of the Royal Spanish Tennis Federation.
In 1990 an official competition-size football pitch was built to increase still further the range of sporting activities available on the resort. In 1997 Inmogolf S.A. built five new football pitches, including the main pitch with a grandstand, and created a professional football centre. These developments were part of a larger project which included eight pitches and were in accordance with the agreement signed with the Norwegian Football Federation. The centre was opened officially in February 1998.
There is also a cricket pitch with scoreboard and La Manga Club is now a key venue for European cricket matches.
The Clubhouse, Hotel and Las Lomas
The first building to be erected was started in December 1971 with the construction of the 10,000 square metres Clubhouse. Eventually the four star Las Mimosas hotel was built adjoining the Clubhouse and was opened in November, 1982. In 1987 the name was changed to the Club Hotel. However this hotel was too small to meet the increasing demand for hotel accommodation. When P & O took over the resort, they announced plans to improve and expand the Club Hotel. Work began towards the end of 1991. The hotel was initially known as the Hotel Principe Felipe, but was changed to the Hyatt Regency La Manga Hotel when the Hyatt Group was appointed. The Hyatt representatives proposed some changes to the original plans and the new hotel was finally opened on 1st June 1993.
Just before the old hotel and clubhouse were closed to make way for the construction of the new hotel, the present Golf Clubhouse was opened in July 1992.
The original Las Lomas development is an authentic, Spanish-style village, built in 1987. In 1996 the area and the apartments underwent extensive renovation and refurbishment and a number were set aside for sale on a time-share basis. It was renamed the Peninsular Club. In 2004 the extension to the Las Lomas development was built, including further apartment accommodation, a luxury spa, meeting/conference rooms, formal banqueting facilities and an additional restaurant.
The first housing development was the Golf Bungalows which were completed in 1972. They were originally expected to provide accommodation for the Club. There is a private swimming pool for the use of owners.
The first individual villas were built by a wealthy American in 1973 on Calle de la Estrella with the intention of selling or leasing them; however, for a long period they were let out for use by the most important visitors to the resort. In 1975 a villa was constructed on plot 139, which was the first one to be built for the personal use of the owners.
In 1982 four new villas were built by the then resort owners in Calle de la Estrella on plots 178, 183, 185 and 189. Villa no. 183 was used for a number of years from 1983 onwards by the Ballesteros family - Seve, Manuel and Vicente. Currently there are some 125 individual villas on large plots around the resort.
Today the resort has 39 communities: Golf Bungalows, Los Miradores, Bellavista, Las Sabinas, Bellaluz, Los Altos 1 & II, Los Molinos, El Rancho, C. Commercial Bellavista, Las Higueras, Las Palmeras, Las Brisas, El Forestal, Albatros, La Colina, Los Naranjos I & II, El Pinar, El Mirador del Mar, La Quinta Club, Monte Claro, Los Olivos, Hacienda de Golf, Coto de Golf I, II, III & IV, Montemares, View Point I & II, Monteclaro, Las Palmitas, La Plaza, Monte Verde, Monte Leon, Buena Vista Villas, Buena Vista Apartments, La Manga Club S.L. There are links within the La Manga Owners website to individual content for these Communities.
La Quinta Club was opened in 1986 and comprises 46 villas. It is operated as a private time-share club and membership entitles the owners to the exclusive use of their property for one week (or multiples of one week) each year.
Reception Office and Telephone Exchange
In September 1986 a main reception area and telephone exchange were opened. The exchange is on line 24 hours a day; it is available to the public and has an automatic switchboard which can handle 774 lines as well as a team of operators and telephone booths. The original role of the reception office was to manage apartment and villa rentals around the resort. Originally the General Community Offices and Medical Centre were housed in the same block. The telephone system is extremely important as it is the first point of contact for medical or security problems.
La Plaza and Las Sabinas
These two commercial centres, comprising a range of shops, bars, restaurants, business offices, and banks, a supermarket and car parking areas, were completed in 1996 and, together with the garage, offer a full range of on-site support facilities for tenants, residents and visitors. The General Community offices and Medical Centre are located in Las Sabinas.