One proposal lessens the existing rules, making the courses more appealing for an outside management company, while the other hopes to preserve the city-run course offerings by raising greens fees and other revenues. The latter allows golf pros or a designee to establish greens-fee rates based on dynamic pricing, and lets fees increase by $1 each year, rather than 25 cents every two years. It also sets new fees, raising each by $3.
Amid questions about what will happen to city-owned golf courses in Louisville, Ky., two Metro Council proposals filed September 9 would pave the way for sharply different visions of the future, the Louisville Courier Journal reported.
One strips sections of the existing rules around golf courses, making the city more flexible—and, possibly, more appealing—as it mulls formally soliciting proposals for outside management, The Courier Journal reported. The other aims to preserve the city-run course offerings by raising greens fees and other revenues, without turning to a private or nonprofit entity to run them.
C+RB last reported on the city’s plans in August.
Mayor Greg Fischer and his administration have argued the golf courses are losing money and that, given budget challenges, Louisville must explore options for other ways of running the courses, The Courier Journal reported. But others, including council members sponsoring the proposed ordinance to raise greens fees, argue they may not need outside help.
A request for information on outside management sent out earlier this summer returned a number of ideas, including turning one course into park land, transforming courses into golf developments with retail “hubs,” or adding live entertainment, The Courier Journal reported. To achieve at least some of those ideas, however, the city would have to change its rules.
To that end, Councilman Bill Hollander’s proposed ordinance would take out some of the more restrictive rules: requiring a golf “pro” at every course and restricting the number of courses each manager could run, The Courier Journal reported.
“The idea of the ordinance I’m sponsoring is to make it clear that there’s at least a possibility that some of the provisions that would make these proposals more difficult might be repealed,” Hollander said September 9.
He said he wouldn’t advance that ordinance until a request for proposals had been sent out, proposals had been received and there were ideas that “people thought were beneficial, including council members,” The Courier Journal reported
His proposed ordinance would retain requirements for the council to approve of any sale, closure or repurposing of Metro-owned golf courses, The Courier Journal reported.
“It’s important that we consider every proposal for being more efficient with taxpayer dollars as we manage through these steep pension increases,” Hollander added. “If it takes changing existing ordinances to make the best decisions, we should be open to those changes.”
On the other end of the spectrum, a proposal from council members Cindi Fowler and Kevin Kramer seeks to “enhance the long-term economic viability” of courses, The Courier Journal reported. Both said it’s an effort to protect golf courses in Louisville from closing.
The ordinance creates a $5 online booking fee for golfers who reserve a tee time, which would be refunded if and when they showed up at the reserved time, The Courier Journal reported. It also allows golf pros or a designee to establish greens-fee rates based on dynamic pricing, and lets fees increase by $1 each year, rather than 25 cents every two years. It also sets new fees, raising each by $3.
Summer season rates at Seneca and Charlie Vettiner would rise from $19 on a weekend to $22, for example, The Courier Journal reported. At Iroquois, Shawnee and Sun Valley, summer weekends would go from $17 to $20. At Cherokee and Bobby Nichols, they’d go from $14 to $17.
Kramer said those prices were in line with other municipal courses, based on conversations with golf pros, The Courier Journal reported.
“There’s been no discussion about the possibility of generating enough revenue to make them sustainable, or to allow golf pros to change the way they do things,” Kramer said. “… There’s a way to do this that doesn’t involve sending responsibility for golf to an outside entity and [doesn’t accept] a foregone solution that we have to reduce more amenities that citizens in Louisville are accustomed to.”
The updated fees, the ordinance says, would better correspond with the costs associated with providing golf opportunities, The Courier Journal reported.
A presentation from Louisville Parks and Recreation, based on an economic and viability study of the courses, said greens fees would have to increase by $3 at all courses per round “just to stop loss,” The Courier Journal reported. It also noted that deferred capital costs needed to “render the courses competitive” total more than $20 million, and that equipment needs are more than $2 million.
Without protections for certain parts of town that could be left without a golf course, under the request for proposals, Fowler said she worries that Valley Station or Pleasure Ridge Park, among other neighborhoods, might become a “golf desert,” The Courier Journal reported. If the plan laid out in the ordinance was utilized, she estimated there could be a $1.3 million difference “in favor of golf.”
“I am scrambling, if you can understand that approach,” she wrote in an e-mail. “It is as simple as that.”
Under current rules, any closure, repurposing, sale or leasing of city-owned golf course land must be approved by the Metro Council after two public hearings, The Courier Journal reported.
Plus, rules lay out a series of expectations of private management:
– A Class A PGA member (a golf “pro”) must manage each course;
– Each manager can manage only one golf course at a time;
– Each manager can’t manage another competing course; and
– Staff must manage the clubhouse, concession stand and golf carts.
Several respondents, particularly the national management companies, suggested removing the requirement that a private manager can manage only one golf course at a time, The Courier Journal reported. Having one management contract, Kempersports Management argued, gives the city a single point of contact and frees up time for city staff to focus on other priorities: “The city can realize many advantages by outsourcing all management services to a single vendor.”
Council members, too, have questioned whether that would mean some of the less profitable courses don’t get picked up, The Courier Journal reported.
At least one other respondent recommended changing the requirement that a golf “pro” work at each course, reported, considering that “a number of facilities likely have a lesser degree of operational sophistication than others.”