A $5 million offer from the Tachi Yokut tribe to purchase the Lemoore Golf Course, along with several other offers, are being debated in scheduled public meetings before the council considers negotiating the sale. James Snead, CFO for the Tachi Palace Hotel and Casino, told the council that the tribe is committed to making a $1 million investment for improvements in the first year.
The Lemoore (Calif.) City Council continued its discussion about potentially selling the municipal Lemoore Golf Course following a $5 million offer from the Tachi Yokut tribe, the Hanford (Calif.) Sentinel reported.
About a dozen residents voiced their concerns at the second of two scheduled public meetings before the council would consider negotiating the sale. Meanwhile, the city has fielded at least two other offers for the property. Golf course manager Rich Rhoads has made his own offer to lease the course, the Sentinel reported.
City Manager Jeff Laws said the city was contacted on December 16 by a private investment group that is also interested in buying the golf course, the Sentinel reported.
“They’re asking for 60 to 90 days to do all of their due diligence, get all of the financial [information] from the golf course, and to maybe come up with a proposal to possibly purchase the golf course,” Laws said.
Hanford resident Dick Jakes, a longtime player at the course, said he was worried what would happen if the tribe bought the course and petitioned to convert it into tribal land. Jakes presented the council with some of his research on the subject, the Sentinel reported.
Mayor Billy Siegel said that the issue had been raised at the previous study session and that the answer appears to be fairly complex. “What we’re trying to do is get that question answered,” Siegel said. “If we go into any kind of agreement without that answer, we’re not doing our due diligence.”
Former Lemoore Planning Commissioner Lisa Elgin asked the council to consider whether the tribe would be an ideal buyer. “If you’re going to go about this as a purely business decision,” Elgin said, “I ask you to think to yourself: Do you know of any tribal lands that are owned by this tribe that are not blighted or do not have terrible things happening on them all the time? I cannot think of any at all.”
Gerald Mercer, a resident of Stratford, said he worried that selling the course could threaten youth golf programs in the community. He praised the successful teams currently supported by the course, including the travel team he coaches, the Sentinel reported.
“We needed help to purchase uniforms, we needed funds to pay for green fees and range balls,” Mercer said. “Both years, I’ve approached the Tachi Yokut tribe for their help. Their response was, ‘We are not interested in sponsoring a youth golf program.’ That response makes me wonder, and it should make you wonder, what is their true commitment to these programs?”
Several residents criticized the tribe for proposing to pay for the course over 14 years as opposed to buying it outright, the Sentinel reported.
James Snead, chief financial officer for the Tachi Palace Hotel and Casino, defended the tribe’s proposal, the Sentinel reported.
“The tribe is committed to making a $1 million investment for improvements in the first year if we own the course,” Snead said. “I think a lot of people are misrepresenting why we want to structure the payments the way we do. It’s because we want to have the cash to make those investments.”
Laws noted that the golf course was about $90,000 in debt in 1991, when it was a nine-hole course. That debt has grown with the expansion to an 18-hole course. The city has since spent about $600,000 in finance fees alone, the Sentinel reported.
A 1995 staff report by then-City Manager Allen Goodman with figures from management company Golf Resources Inc. boasts projections of 65,000 rounds of golf being played in 1997 and 1998, the Sentinel reported.
“If you were doing 65,000 rounds of golf a year, we wouldn’t be in the red,” Laws said. “That’s never happened. Rich Rhoads even says he only does about 39,000 rounds of golf. That’s the problem. They gave these projections in ‘97 and ‘98 that are two times what they are today.”