KemperSports has managed the Palm Desert, Calif., property since it opened in 1997, and the city is exploring other management options for the first time. The city has said it is not dissatisfied with KemperSports’ performance, but some citizens have lodged complaints over the past two years about resident rates and tee times at the facility.
For the first time in 20 years, the city of Palm Desert, Calif., will explore the possibility of hiring a new management company for its Desert Willow Golf Resort, the Palm Springs, Calif., Desert Sun reported.
Since it opened in 1997, KemperSports has managed Desert Willow, the 36-hole golf course and clubhouse, with the City Council approving or extending contracts without going to bid. In December, the council approved another one-year extension for $789,000, but said that would likely be the last time and that the city would seek requests for qualifications and proposals before approving another contract, the Desert Sun reported.
On Thursday, they followed through with that vow, but said repeatedly it is not because they are dissatisfied with Kemper’s performance. “This is not about Kemper. We are all really in awe of what they have done for our golf course,” Councilwoman Susan Marie Weber said.
But some citizens have lodged complaints over the past two years about resident rates and tee times at Desert Willow, and suggested it was time to look at other management companies and what they have to offer, the Desert Sun reported.
“I am hopeful that after 21 years we can have a fair and open process (in which) the qualified management companies will have an opportunity to submit competitive proposals,” Palm Desert resident Tom Walton wrote in an email to council members. “Leaving one company in this position for 21 years without competitive challenges is not healthy for the city or the residents.”
Walton also opposed a 20-mile no-compete clause in the contract with Kemper and asked the city why it was needed. Assistant City Manager Rudy Acosta said it is a device the city uses to keep Kemper’s focus on Desert Willow while Councilman Van Tanner said it is also a way to avoid golfers being turned away from Desert Willow and sent instead to a nearby course managed by the same company but struggling financially, the Desert Sun reported.
But the majority of council members agreed that the no-compete clause may be something that can be omitted in a new contract, along with a mandate that the company put up $500,000 for a reserve account to avoid the city having to draw from its general funds if Desert Willow falls into the red, the Desert Sun reported.
The RFQ/RFPs will instead ask potential management companies what they think of the two long-standing requirements and if they oppose them to explain why, the Desert Sun reported.
Sabby Jonathan said that will open the door for more companies to submit proposals. Tanner opposed dropping either, but especially the cash-flow clause. “We have never had to worry about going into the general fund to help Kemper’s through a cash crunch,” Tanner said.
Council members and staff said repeatedly that maintaining the standard of service and course maintenance that Kemper has provided is the primary concern in looking at the possibility of hiring another management company, the Desert Sun reported.
“We have set the bar very high for Desert Willow,” Acosta said.
It is expected that Kemper will be among the management companies submitting a RFQ/RFP, and the council could decide it is still the best company to manage the resort, the Desert Sun reported.
“Desert Willow is a wonderful place and what makes it wonderful is the staff,” Palm Desert resident Scott Sherman said. He said he and his wife bought their home in Palm Desert because of Desert Willow and hoped the council would keep Kemper in place. “The quality of the entire package (offered) is phenomenal,” Sherman said.
Desert Willow is the home course of the American FootGolf League and will be hosting the U.S. National FootGolf Championship this November. Its experiences with building a FootGolf course and now having more than 1,000 FootGolf rounds played there will be detailed in C&RB’s October issue Course & Grounds feature.