Archive for Saturday, March 4, 2006

Eagle Bend unlikely to ever pay own way

As golf course continues to lose money, city gives up on treating it like a business

March 4, 2006


It's the golfing equivalent of throwing away the scorecard.

After receiving the latest news of financial losses at the city-owned Eagle Bend Golf Course, administrators doubt the course can pay its own way.

"While the course had a couple of good financial years, it doesn't look like over time it will pay for its operations," City Manager Mike Wildgen said. "But that's the way it works with a lot of facilities. We wouldn't have been able to build the Indoor Aquatics Center if we said it had to pay for itself."

The course lost $57,158 in 2005, according to a new year-end financial report.

The loss continues the trend of Eagle Bend losing money in all but two years since it opened in 1998.

In the future, determining whether it makes or loses money won't be so easy. Wildgen is planning to move the golf course from its own fund within the city's budget in 2007 into the budget's broader recreation fund, the one that pays for parks, pools and other recreation facilities that generate more expenses than revenues.

Wildgen said the move hopefully would allow taxpayers to begin thinking of Eagle Bend more like an amenity than a business.

Kansas University sophomore Daniel Brumley, Lawrence, a Pro Shop employee at Eagle Bend Golf Course practices on the course's driving range Friday afternoon.

Kansas University sophomore Daniel Brumley, Lawrence, a Pro Shop employee at Eagle Bend Golf Course practices on the course's driving range Friday afternoon.

The finances of Eagle Bend have drawn particular scrutiny from the public because city commissioners in the mid-1990s were told by consultants that the new course would attract enough green fees to pay for itself.

Fred DeVictor, the city's director of parks and recreation, said meeting those projections has been difficult as more courses have been built in the Kansas City area, and also because golf has suffered an industrywide downturn since the go-go '90s.

"There's a lot more competition out there, and you can only cut the pie so many ways," DeVictor said.

Ed White, owner of the Orchards Golf Course, 3000 Bob Billings Parkway, said it was sad that the situation had come to this.

"It seems like I remember telling them that it wouldn't make any money when they were thinking about building it," White said. "It was just a no-brainer that it wasn't going to make any money. The number of people just weren't here, and now the city is just stuck with it."

DeVictor said he favors the course being wrapped in his department's broader budget. He said it was appropriate because the course, much like a park or a recreation center, adds to the quality of life.

"I definitely think it is providing a value to the community," DeVictor said.

He also said the budgeting change would not affect the department's efforts to run the course in a financially efficient manner. DeVictor already has made some changes to improve the course's bottom line. Eagle Bend in 2005 operated with one fewer full-time employee, not filling a vacant clubhouse worker position. The course's superintendent also has begun overseeing maintenance of other athletic fields operated by Parks and Recreation. That allows part of his salary to be paid from non-golf course revenues.

The results have been encouraging. The $57,000 operating loss actually was a major improvement over the $157,000 loss from 2004 and the $107,000 loss in 2003. The course last year also benefited from other area courses being closed for repairs.

Eagle Bend Golf Course


Godot 12 years, 1 month ago

Pippens, why is it idiotic? Specifics, please.

Godot 12 years, 1 month ago

Hey, Marion, your plan is ingenious, by the way.

Bruce Rist 12 years, 1 month ago

I know you didn't want to answer that...

cowboy 12 years, 1 month ago

There have been no salamanders slaughtered this week 1 I check the road each morning and night and not a single smushed little newt , was this a large joke thrust on the LJW ?

KsTwister 12 years, 1 month ago

There you have it---the park the city wanted us to pay for. And guess what, we already are so don't raise our taxes, its a win-win.

dthroat 12 years, 1 month ago

OK, if you can stay away from some of the off-topic posts, there have been some good ideas posted. I too am sad the snack bar is run so poorly. Think=managment/pro. There is no real selling of the course, but when I play there are always out-of-towners there that think the place is OK. Not great, but for the money, OK. They also spend money in town when they are here (particulary since there is no restaurant or "grill" on site).

My personal opinion is that with better managment and a little IMAGINATION (=equals running like other courses already do) this could really turn into a money making business.

But of course, that will interrupt the calm quiet golf I now play, but I can live with that.

Kam_Fong_as_Chin_Ho 12 years, 1 month ago

I really like Eagle Bend. It's a much better value than Alvamar. I hope they're able to turn things around and sort out the financial problems.

Bruce Rist 12 years, 1 month ago

I don't think the Army Corp of Engineers would approve that and Merrill wants Buffalo all over the place. :)

bmwjhawk 12 years, 1 month ago

And does it mean that rounds will now be affordable for people without golf shoes?

Godot 12 years, 1 month ago

Maybe the reason they are hiding the golf course in the Parks and Recs budget is so that they can use the 1cent sales tax, that should be retired now that the bond has been paid off, to keep the golf course afloat. More smoke and mirrors.

cms 12 years, 1 month ago

PorkRibs, call me names if you'd like but I am not a liar. Apparently the party that yelled at us was in good company if in fact you are a frequent player at Eagle Bend. I'll take my play somewhere else. And, I am not a bad golfer.

Bruce Rist 12 years, 1 month ago

Two things:

The water is not free nor is the electricity to pump it. The water doesn't come from the lake. Eagle Bend pays, what it can, by itself. The staff does a great job!

The level of play has dropped from 41000 (high) to 33000(low). You loose 20% of your business and ....

blessed3x 12 years, 1 month ago

The free market place should be allowed to regulate itself in all manners. The government has no place bailing out failing companies or regulating prices.

short_one 12 years, 1 month ago

Okay, I don't really care one way or the other about the golf course but I am really tired of all the bad spelling. Can people please note that "loose" and "lose" are NOT the same word? If you cannot spell it, then either look it up or use another word. Furthermore, pippens_revenge, if you are going to call someone stupid, please use the correct form of "your." "Your" is a possessive pronoun. I believe you were trying to use "you're" which is a contraction for "you are."

Bruce Rist 12 years, 1 month ago


Who should pay the remaining 15 years on the bond if there is no golf course generating revenue? That comes to about $300,000 a year. Right now Eagle Bend pays for that.

cowboy 12 years, 1 month ago

This problem could be solved easily with a bit of imagination and hard work , sell the restaurant operation on contract to some one else , a concession complete with a liquor liscense , how nice would it be on a summer eve to hit the deck for a brew and dinner ,

Hire a GM that can market the place and keep it customer caring. The last time I went out there for a tournament they didnt even have a warm hot dog , that sucked !

Have a discounted round kids league , old folks league , ladies league , lesbian league , gay league ,fraternity league , market the driving range with a grill nearby with beer !

Offer salamander hunts , that'll get ya five people a year.

Once a month open scramble tournaments for the non-pro public.

This would be so easy to turn around if there was someone passionately trying to do so !

bmwjhawk 12 years, 1 month ago

And HA HA. The front page headline reads, "Eagle Bend Unlikely to Never Pay Own Way." That's a funny double-negative. I'm sure it will be fixed soon.

maveric 12 years, 1 month ago

I see that Lawrence is trying to keep up with the popularity of KU. Yes I understand KU is known and known well, but the city is trying everything possible to keep up with presenting KU as KU, but what about KASOLD DRIVE my god WTH it was to be repaired last year according to the paper but see only half it got done and its just spot fixed here and there, what about the ball parks out on K-10 they could use cleaning up and shappened up and host city tourneys from surrounding cities to pull money in. Its like this, fix what you got now before you build something else, THE DAMN ROADS NEED IT BEFORE EAGLE BEND WAS THOUGHT of but nooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo leave KASOLD the night mare of a road Lawrence alone since its only 65 years old and never repaired the right way as always big spenders but half ass job. Just saying more important things come first ROADS< ROADS< ROADS oh yea and IOWA(59 highway)<just to mention properly it sucks as well as KASOLD but KASOLD is worse just saying my opinion. No harm done

girly 12 years, 1 month ago

Free land and Free water and they are still losing money. The city is competing and taking money away from legitimate business men, such as Ed White of The Orchards, and they say, oh well, it'll just be another amenity we (the taxpayers) offer the city. They never listen. This city blows money on things it shouldn't be involved in, and can't seem to pay for the things it needs to.

Richard Heckler 12 years, 1 month ago

It sounds like their is more traffic than the LJW portrays and I do not play golf. It could be only a matter of a little more time until it can break even. But when LCC comes back on line what will the numbers bring? A negative $125,000 on average?

The objective I believe was to provide a more afforable course. If the golfers like the course so be it. When Lawrence becomes 250,000 as Bob Johnson projects the course will likely become very busy. If we were to wait till then for construction far more tax dollars would be required. Perhaps this will turn out to be one of the few great examples of good planning.

This has never been a real thorn in my side. Judging by comments of those who frequent Eagle Bend the picture may not be so bleak. After all most businesses are given 3-5 years before actual profits begin to surface. Or call it a Country Club and perhaps more will come.

Brad Barker 12 years, 1 month ago

thanks pippens for one of the few intelligent postings i have read. obviously the people with complaints and rash solutions are not golfers and have no interest in the course's exsistence. as a weekend golfer, 90% of the rounds i play in a year are at eagle bend a. i love the course and have no complaints about its operation or management. i agree that corporate tournements during the week might be a good money making idea.

dthroat 12 years, 1 month ago

Pippens- I have to agree with you. I play there a lot and fail to see how they can lose money with the free water and things. I truely feel the management and perhaps the accounting ends should be studied.

I am not an accountant but fail to see how, with the greens fees and league fees they constantly lose money.

Another question, they made money in two years. Why not after that?? I really do not believed the level of play has decreased. Every time I want to play it seems busy. Was there management changes/additions made then?? I seem to think so but do not remember for sure.

Bruce Rist 12 years, 1 month ago

well, the bond is about $333,000 a year for the next 15 years whether there is a golf course or not (the over all budget is about $925,000)... the short fall this year is $57,000 or $276,000 that Eagle Bend would have paid for with green fees, driving range sales etc.

Your idea would great a short fall of $276,000 a year.

Jamesaust 12 years, 1 month ago

Hmm...City decides that the private supply of golfcourses is inadequate for the demand (no reason given why the market fails) and so builds a golf course (they will come, won't they?) but in the end demand is less and the new golfcourse only expanded the supply.

Hmm...City decides that the private supply of recreational opportunities in inadequate for the demand (no reason given why the markets fails) and so wants to build a rec center.............[fill in the blank for yourself]

Bruce Rist 12 years, 1 month ago

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.

Godot 12 years, 1 month ago

The Topeka public golf course is a money pit, too. City officials are floating ideas to try to stop the bleeding. One is to join with the county for operation and maintenance, letting the county contract the maintenance out to a private company. Guess the private company can hire grounds keepers for a lot less money than the city can, and on a seasonal basis, too.

The Topeka sports complex is a huge money loser, also.

Lawrence should pay attention. We have a failed investment in a golf course; yet we are looking to invest in a sports complex that will, no doubt, be another big drain on the budget.

If the taxpayers approved the bond issue for Eagle Bend as a separate entity that was supposed to pay for itself, how can it just be "absorbed" by the Parks and Rec department? What if (though it is doubtful) the golf course actually makes money some year? Will that extra money just disappear into the Parks and Rec budget?

cms 12 years, 1 month ago

I used to play golf at Eagle Bend when it first opened. After a couple of years, the play was so slow that it was a waste of time. Usual game took 5 hours. Although the management said marshalls were on the course, I never saw one. And, one time our group was confronted by another group because of their misunderstanding. Two years ago I told the management I would NEVER be back.

Godot 12 years, 1 month ago

I agree with LD, Marion and Merrill, but have one other suggestion: Convert Eagle Bend into the proposed sports complex. That way we will have only one money-draining "sports amenity" instead of two.

Hiding the losses of Eagle Bend in the Parks and Rec budget does not mean they don't exist. Your smoke and mirrors trick doesn't work, Wildgen. We will remember that you and your consultants deceived us again.

Richard Heckler 12 years, 1 month ago

takeastand, I do not know how slow revenue is being generated through golf however if revenue is negative how much worse can it be. As it is taxpayers apparently are picking up the tab.

Here are some new ideas for the area: Charge for campsites. Create gravel pads for RV's, put out picnic tables, tent sites and try selling hunting and fishing licenses. The Eagle Bend crew would be greatly downsized and would eliminate expensive golf course maintenace/golf supervisor salary/supplies/sprinkler repairs and golf cart repairs. Trade off an extravagant money hole for a far less expensive money hole. Keep a low budget beverage/quick shop for hot coffee, water,juices and beer.

lunacydetector 12 years, 1 month ago

headline: government tries to run a business and loses shirt

this is what happens when our government tries to compete with private enterprise.......historically, the taxpayers always come out the loser.

...i wonder what a cost / benefit analysis says about this?.....time to sell it to private enterprise and cut the taxpayer's loses........reminds me of the empty T bus always losing money......

how to pay for money losing ventures? the government could always pull a backdoor deal on the citizens and raise our property they propose for the ECO squares.

Richard Heckler 12 years, 1 month ago

One day Lawrence will realize it is not a large thriving metropolis and must act and spend like a small city. All this new housing has not brought with it avid golfers. There are 3 nice golf courses and a driving range all within the Lawrence metro. KC metro and Topeka metro also are close enough Lawrence does not need a ton of golf courses. Lawrence Country Club is spending big bucks renovating their course. Eagle Bend does not have a chance. Orchards was bailed out I do believe with some additional help from the neighborhood in order to keep apartments off the property.

Eagle Bend should be converted to a campground that would reduce overhead substanially. Greens require expensive equipment and constant attention.

Privatization is not a dream answer. Investors like privatization when tax dollars support it.

KANSASGATOR 12 years, 1 month ago

This board lets anyone post idiotic junk. Most of you are clearly clueless about this entire subject.

1- The early years of most golf courses are lean.

2- When the bonds are paid off, the course will be more mature, and will be bringing in a large profit. At that point, the uninformed readers of this newspaper will then claim the course was a great addittion to the city.

3- It is a good course, it needs a better on-site manager, and it needs more marshals. All things associated with new courses.

  1. I cannot believe $57,000 in a budget of millions is causing the LJWorld to even write an article about this. They are as dumb as some of you. This course benefits thousands of people in this community. It brings people from outside of Lawrence into the community who spend money at the course, AND IN TOWN. Next time you play there, ask people you see where they are from.

  2. This is easily the biggest non-story ever to appear on this paper's front page. In fact, the story is woefully incomplete.

  3. When the course starts to make money, take some of the earnings and put them into the course. Changing the course a little will ensure its freshness to its players.

For what this entire project provides the city, its citizens and those who cannot afford LCC, or Alvamar, 57,000 is not much money to maintain a GREAT greenspace and recerational opportunity.

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