Just last week, the city planned to award a 10-year management contract for its four municipal golf courses to the newly formed Motown Golf Management Group, but instead opted for a short extension with its current management company, Vargo Golf Detroit, to ensure that the golf courses open on time.
The four golf courses owned by the city of Detroit will start opening on March 25 under a one-year contract extension the City Council approved on March 22 with Vargo Golf Detroit, the Detroit Free Press reported.
The extension was put together in recent days as Mayor Mike Duggan’s administration scrambled to avoid a delayed opening of the city’s courses. The administration previously backed a 10-year deal with another company, but the recommendation was pulled late last week after the bidding process was criticized both by council members and a competing golf management company bidding on the contract, the Free Press reported.
As of today, Rackham Golf Course in Huntington Woods, Mich., will open Friday; Rouge Park Golf Course will open April 1; Chandler Park Golf Course will open April 8; and Palmer Park Golf Course will open May 2, the Free Press reported.
The city’s top lawyer, Melvin (Butch) Hollowell, said a recent review uncovered several problems with the bids. The most expedient solution to get the courses open soon was to enter into a one-year extension with Vargo, which has managed the courses for the last five years. Companies tied to Vargo submitted bids to continue managing the courses, but they were not scored highest, the Free Press reported.
“People are very passionate about golf in this city. I think it’s important that we are open and ready for the public,” Hollowell told the council. “In respect to the RFP (request for proposals) process, we probably could do better.”
The city will begin a new bidding process in June to manage the courses under a longer-term contract beginning next season. Under Vargo’s contract, the company pays the city an annual fee of $125,000 and between 1% and 5% of gross receipts in excess of $3.6 million, the Free Press reported.
As recently as last Thursday, the administration backed a 10-year contract with another company, Motown Golf Management Group of Detroit to manage the city-owned courses. A City Council committee expressed skepticism about the Motown Golf deal last week because the company is new—it formed in November 2015—and the contract, at 10 years, is rather long, the Free Press reported.
Motown Golf president Angelo Arca, a former Vargo employee, told council before the vote that his company has been treated unfairly. He said it would be a mistake for the city to hire Vargo for a one-year extension, the Free Press reported.
‘It’s been five years that they had an opportunity to have these golf courses in the right shape and they failed,” Arca said. “The golfing community deserves better.”
Council President Brenda Jones agreed the conditions at Chandler Park and Palmer Park are poor. But she had reservations about awarding a 10-year contract to a new company. While Chandler Park was under Vargo’s management, Jones said she got a call from a golfer who said the conditions were so bad that a refund was requested, the Free Press reported.
“That’s embarrassing to me as a leader of the city of Detroit,” Jones said.
Rob Vargo, of Vargo Golf, said the city’s courses were in terrible shape when his company was awarded the previous management contract five years ago. He said members of his staff began calling him last night to assure him they are ready to go back to work, the Free Press reported.
“We’ll be open for Good Friday at Rackham,” Vargo told the council.