Archive for Wednesday, August 3, 2005

City seeks to offset below-par numbers

Public links may be subsidized to make up for falling revenues

August 3, 2005


This was supposed to be Eagle Bend Golf Course's year.

But the city-owned course continues to struggle financially.

"This was the year that it clearly should have done well, and it has not," said Ed Mullins, the city's director of finance.

After losing $190,000 last year, Eagle Bend expected to rebound because chief competitor Alvamar Golf Course was closed for renovations much of the spring. Also, greens fees were increased by $2 to help generate more revenue. A round of 18-holes of golf now costs between $19 and $33. Golfers have also been greeted by drier weather this year

But revenues at the course below Clinton Lake Dam saw its revenues through June drop by $20,000, or 3.5 percent, compared with last year, according to the city's six month financial report. And rounds played are down from 13,745 through June 2004 to 12,758 through June 2005.

When Eagle Bend was built in 1998, commissioners were told many Lawrence residents were leaving the community to golf. Consultants also said the course would pay for itself after about a year of operation. Briefly after opening, the course was self-sufficient, but as new courses were added in the area, rounds played consistently have fallen from a high of 41,500. This year the city is projecting 27,240 rounds played.

Jeff Hackel, Lawrence, left, follows his putt as his golfing partner, Brett Temple, Lawrence, watches Tuesday afternoon at Eagle Bend Golf Course. Despite having favorable weather and Alvamar public being closed for part of the summer, Eagle Bend could lose approximately $140,000 in revenues this year.

Jeff Hackel, Lawrence, left, follows his putt as his golfing partner, Brett Temple, Lawrence, watches Tuesday afternoon at Eagle Bend Golf Course. Despite having favorable weather and Alvamar public being closed for part of the summer, Eagle Bend could lose approximately $140,000 in revenues this year.

Mullins is estimating that the course will lose about $140,000 this year, making somewhat of a comeback from last year because Lawrence Country Club is closed for renovations for the rest of the year. But Mullins said it appears certain the city will have to subsidize the golf course.

"I'm disappointed that it hasn't improved, but that is in no way a criticism of the staff out there," said City Commissioner Sue Hack. "I think they are working very hard on it. I don't understand why it hasn't improved, but clearly it hasn't."

Several golfers at the course on Tuesday also said they were surprised business hadn't picked up. Most said the course was well-kept and a reasonable value. But Greg Lamb, an Olathe resident who works in Lawrence, said he thought the course was struggling to draw golfers from the lucrative Kansas City market, which has seen a number of new courses built.

And if Kansas City area golfers do decide to travel to Lawrence, Lamb said, there's no guarantee that they'll choose to play Eagle Bend. Alvamar's public and private courses, the Lawrence Country Club and the Orchards, a nine-hole executive course, are attractive options, he said.

"Really, if you think about it, that's a pretty good number of courses for a community this size," Lamb said.

When the course was planned in the mid-1990s, it was estimated it routinely would see 44,000 rounds of golf played on it per year.

Mullins said city leaders need to understand that those projections likely are no longer valid.

"We're not getting the rounds played that we were anticipating," Mullins said. "I don't see on a long-term basis that we're going to get the numbers we would like."

Hack said she believed the city needed to be prepared to subsidize the city's golf course in future years, but she said she would like to follow a parks and recreation staff recommendation to open the course up to more private tournaments. The private tournaments, staff members have said, could help reduce the course's financial shortfall.

Mayor Boog Highberger also said he was prepared to keep subsidizing the operation. But he said he wasn't sure adding more tournaments was a good strategy because it could make it more difficult for the average golfer to get a tee time.

He also said citizens need to understand that simply closing the course isn't a viable option. That's because the city is obligated through 2016 to pay $320,000 a year in bond payments related to the construction of Eagle Bend. Those bonds must be paid whether the course is open or not.

"People need to understand that it would cost us more to close it down," Highberger said.


Richard Heckler 12 years, 3 months ago

How about selling it off in 2017? It's not an easy place to find and does not come with prestige. Then there is talk of building another with the wild idea of some fancy resort on Clinton Lake.

Richard Heckler 12 years, 3 months ago

If you are going to spend money on the property why not use that money for constructing small camping cabins and replace trees. Then begin renting out the cabins. Staff may as well maintain cabins instead of a money losing golf course. Turn it into a campers paradise. Include tent pads.

Tournaments are probaly not a solutions because Orchards is back on track,Alvamar is redone and the Lawrence Country Club is spending massive amounts on it's current project.

lunacydetector 12 years, 3 months ago

why doesn't the city do a cost/ benefit analysis of everything city owned that competes with private enterprise? of course, then the city would be held accountable. you got the eagle bend, the T bus....... the aquatic center...etc. ALL money losers, thus these things should also be excluded when that impact fee company puts a price on growth. but then again, they need to do a study on the price of no growth and how much lawrence is losing by prohibiting growth.

bmwjhawk 12 years, 3 months ago

Eagle Bend is too expensive, especially now that they've upped the prices another $2. I used to go there quite a bit, but won't even consider it anymore. The best place for people like me (bad golfers) to play is Eudora Riverview, 18 holes located 15 minutes east of here on 15th street (past the Outhouse). On weekdays, it's $20 for a cart and ALL YOU CAN GOLF. The course, especially the greens, can be a little iffy, but the scenery is beautiful and you can't beat the price. I think you can even bring your own tasty beverages.

Tony Kisner 12 years, 3 months ago

The asset is there, try to use it to create value. Give Kane a bonus incentive if he can make money with this place.

Also keep all of the kids off the course that have a golf bag under one arm and a 12 pack under the other. I have walked off the course 2 times becuase of slow play. I have not come back.

I welcome new people to the game but some respect for others is required no matter what the activity.

bmwjhawk 12 years, 3 months ago

Eh. Encourage the college kids to come play. Let the city subsidize it more and, instead of helping it break even, make it affordable for everyone. If people want to play sophisticated golf, let them go to Alvamar or LCC.

The demand wasn't enough to meet the projected rounds played, so they... raised the prices?

Richard Heckler 12 years, 3 months ago

Who brought this on board? No one on this commission. It was a huge topic during the City Commission Race of 1989 or 1990 and there was serious opposition to this. At that point one of the main points was that there were 3 existing courses and why would college players want to drive so far out with Orchards at their back door. So it finally came on board in 1998.

I say no more golf courses with tax dollars and not one convention center with tax dollars.

Do a camp ground and retain some of the golf course staff to manage it. Dropping maintenace of a golf course will cut costs dramatically.

Godot 12 years, 3 months ago

I agree with Merrill, sort of. Sell it. Now. Contract for deed. $350,000 per year for the next 11 years. Purchaser then pays property tax, develops the land, sells it to others who pay even more property tax. Private golf courses increase their revenue and pay more tax. Win-Win. Right now, it is destined to Lose-Lose.

Come on, Commissioners, make a bold move! Put up the For Sale sign!

cowboy 12 years, 3 months ago

I've played ther a half dozen times and in two tournaments. Im a lousy golfer and find the course rather boring , long and open but boring. The last tourney this spring we came in from the front nine and the snack bar had no food , this was noon mind you , it seemed badly managed to me !

Steve Jacob 12 years, 3 months ago

All the complaining about a few thousand dollars, but its OK to spend an extra 300K not to completely close Kasold.

Richard Heckler 12 years, 3 months ago


It's your radical pals,posing as republicans, in Topeka,Kansas that will stifle economic growth across the state of Kansas. They are so in love with themselves that seeing the forest is impossible. The ones you coninue to label "no growthers" in Lawrence are not the ones who created our property tax problems. It was the men and women you supported before the Smart Growth thinkers finally were elected. Now the smart growth thinkers are here to clean up the mess and all you can do is bitch. All they want to do is provide you and me with some tax relief so let's give them a chance.

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