(Photo by Tyler Teston Photography)
The city bought the 344-acre property at the bargain post-recession price of $2.78 million in 2012, to help expedite a needed investment for a city-owned wastewater treatment plant located on the grounds that generates effluent used for irrigation of the Tiger Breeze course. The property was valued at approximately $13 million in 2017 and the club has seen a significant increase in golf rounds under management by Honours Golf that led to a series of course and clubhouse improvement. The city is now interested in exploring a sale to a private operator.
The city of Gulf Breeze, Fla. is considering selling Tiger Point Golf Club, which it purchased in 2012, to accommodate a growing population and to free up cash reserves for utility-related capital improvement projects, the Pensacola (Fla.) News Journal reported.
The 344-acre Tiger Point property is located in unincorporated Gulf Breeze, but the city purchased it for the bargain, post-Recession price of $2.78 million. After it was taken under new management contracted by the city with Honours Golf in 2017 (https://clubandresortbusiness.com/california-florida-clubs-select-new-management-firms/), the News Journal reported, Tiger Point has seen a significant increase in golf rounds, after improvements that have included replacing the irrigation system, revitalizing the clubhouse and relocating the driving range.
Now, with the course valued at approximately $13 million in 2017, the city will discuss exploring options to sell it to a private golf company, the News Journal reported, using the profit to offset a $10.2 million investment that has been made by the city-owned South Santa Rosa Utilities (SSRU), which serves both Gulf Breeze and non-Gulf Breeze residents, for a wastewater treatment plant on the property. The plant generates effluent wastewater used to irrigate the Tiger Point golf course, which is the former home of the PGA Tour’s Pensacola Open.
Selling the course now would also free up cash reserves for the city of Gulf Breeze to help it expand future utilities, the News Journal reported.
“When we acquired [SSRU] in the 1990s, the Tiger Point Golf Course was already a spray field [for effluent water]; it has been since the first day it was constructed,” Gulf Breeze City Manager Samantha Abell told the News Journal. “It represents 37% of our effluent disposal capacity within our whole service area.”
Purchasing the golf course for the bargain post-Recession price gave the city the option to expand the existing wastewater treatment plant, instead of building an entirely new one, which was estimated to cost around $40 million in 2012 but is now likely much more expensive, the News Journal reported. The city first eyed selling the course in 2016, but opted not to sell until irrigation systems were replaced and a reclaimed water system could be explored further.
“The question that the [Gulf Breeze city] council is going to ask, is, ‘Is it time, now that we have revitalized the property for the benefit of the fifteen Homeowners Associations along Tiger Point, to return the golf course to private ownership?’” Abell said. “Because [while] we can set the table for the free market, really government’s role should be to encourage the free market, and then get out of the way.”
The city already sold a portion of the Tiger Breeze course, a 13-acre driving range, in 2018, the News Journal reported. It is still in talks with the Santa Rosa County (Fla.) School Board to sell about 45 acres for $1.9 million, which the school district plans to use to build a school. The school board is expected to vote to finalize the purchase in November.
If the city were to sell the Tiger Breeze course to a private company, there would be a stipulation that the city could continue using it for effluent disposal, and appropriate acreage would be retained for the expansion of the wastewater treatment plant, the News Journal reported.
City residents would not see changes in their utility rates, billing or service if the course is sold, Abell said— but if it isn’t sold, she noted, city residents could begin to see an impacts.
“If we did not sell it at this point, the SSRU has utilized all unencumbered reserves—the only reserves that remain are those that are encumbered for the expansion of the treatment plant or other critical capital projects,” she explained. “Without additional unencumbered money to put toward additional capital improvements, it would seem that now would be the time, when the golf course is in better condition than it’s been in 15 years, to look at potentially selling it.”
The Gulf Breeze City Council planned to hold a public workshop at city hall on November 4th to discuss the potential sale, the News Journal reported. No votes were scheduled to be taken at the workshop, but the council could direct Abell to either begin exploring the sale of the course or not.