Dunedin Stirling Links, operated by Billy Casper Golf, was given two years by the city to make the struggling course work financially.
Billy Casper Golf (BCG), operator of the struggling Dunedin Stirling Links golf course in Dunedin, Fla., has a couple of years to boost revenues before it has to start paying the city rent, according to a report in the Tampa Bay Times.
BCG contracted with the city in 2010 to take on operation and management of the city-owned, par-three course that is located near the world-famous Clearwater Beach and the Tarpon Springs Sponge Docks.
In addition to sharing revenue and concession profits above a certain threshold, BCG agreed to start paying the city a $25,000 annual license fee in four years to cover rent. Payments were due to start in March 2013.
In 2011, BCG called for a city subsidy, which was rejected. The company approached the city again last week asking for a compromise on the rent fee, the Times noted.
This time, city commissioners agreed, voting unanimously to waive rent either for two years or until the course generates annual gross golf revenue of $550,000, whichever comes first.
In 2012, the course generated $329,398 in gross golf revenue, a figure that includes greens, cart, golf pass and driving range income.
“It sounds like we’ll wait and see how things go,” Commissioner Julie Scales told the Times.
The vote of the commission was in line with a recommendation by Dunedin’s Parks and Recreation Director, Vince Gizzi, who called the temporary rate abatement the most cost-effective of the city’s options, given that Billy Casper will continue to cover all course operations and maintenance expenses.
Other alternatives that Gizzi presented to the commission included:
• Seek bids from a new management company.
• Absorb the course back into the city’s Parks and Recreation Department, at a cost of up to $70,000 a year, plus improvement costs.
• Seek to merge the course with the adjacent Dunedin Golf Club, which would require the agreement of Dunedin Golf Club’s board and at least $50,000 a year in city support.
• Turn the course into a city park, at a cost of up to $150,000 a year, plus initial start-up costs.
According to the Times, several city commissioners said they were concerned with the condition of the course. Vice Mayor Julie Ward Bujalski asked that the city and management company’s maintenance expectations be put in writing and reviewed at the end of the two-year rent waiver period.
Tony Cianci, Billy Casper’s Vice President of Operations, said the company is “committed” to maintaining the level of upkeep that city residents and patrons expect. The club’s course-and-grounds staff is preparing for peak season by nursing and sodding the greens, it was noted.
“There will be a slight drop in the way the condition of the golf course looks during the off-season,” Cianci told the Times. “But that’s good business sense in our minds, because it’s putting the resources that we have at the time when we have the most people taking advantage of the property.”
Cianci also noted that the company has poured at least $150,000 into renovations during its agreement with the city and never missed an annual payment to the city’s capital reserve fund.
If the course finally manages to beef up revenues, Gizzi said Dunedin’s contract makes it eligible to receive a 20 percent cut of gross golf revenues above $550,000 and 10 percent of concessions profits above $150,000.
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