Archive for Thursday, June 27, 2002

City official opposes boost in golf fees

June 27, 2002


Oskaloosa resident Dan Ward is a frequent visitor to Lawrence's Eagle Bend Golf Course.

Fees are inexpensive, and the city-owned course is in great condition.

But if the city agrees to a proposal that would charge residents from outside Douglas County higher greens fees, it could be enough to make Ward tee up regularly at some other area public course.

"There are other courses with equally good conditions and other features. It just might be enough to push me to go elsewhere," Ward said.

The plan to seek higher fees for nonresidents is under consideration by city officials, who are looking for ways to raise more revenue for the course.

But Ward has an ally in Parks and Recreation director Fred DeVictor, who this week advocated against a two-tier fee structure for residents and nonresidents.

In a memo to city administrators, DeVictor does not endorse the idea of charging higher fees for non-Douglas County residents.

"The goal is to bring in as many customers through the door as possible and to sell as much of the product as possible. We do not believe that any business would consider charging visitors to our community a higher price for product or service than a resident. If so, a critical part of the market is lost," he wrote.

The search for additional revenue is rooted in Eagle Bend's quest to improve itself.

Eagle Bend Manager Jim Kane said last year the course had seen about $1 million in revenue. That money goes toward operating expenses and retiring the bonds that paid for construction of Eagle Bend, which opened in July 1998.

"It doesn't leave much. In fact, it leaves nothing for capital improvement projects," he said.

Next year the public golf course will be in its fifth full year of operation, and Kane worries about the upkeep of the course. He'd also like to add features that would enhance the facilities and ultimately bring in more revenue.

"We need to provide electricity to our driving range since it's so far away from our clubhouse. In the long run it will be a revenue generator for us, since it would allow us to stay open to 9 or 10 o'clock at night," Kane said.

Last month, city commissioners turned down Kane's request to close the course to the public on occasional Saturday or Sunday mornings for tournaments something Kane said would have meant much-desired added revenue.

Instead, commissioners agreed to raise greens fees in 2003 to $16.50 from $16 for 18 holes during the week, and to $19.50 from $18.50 for 18 holes on the weekend.

Commissioners also asked the Parks and Recreation Department to investigate charging even higher fees for golfers who weren't residents of Douglas County.

That led city officials to conduct a fees survey of 13 area municipal golf courses.

The survey, which included courses in Overland Park, Blue Springs, Mo., and Emporia, found five courses charge nonresidents higher fees. It also indicated Eagle Bend Golf Course had the second-lowest fees of the courses surveyed.

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