Eagle Bend might finally break even

Good weather, Country Club's closure credited for course's relative success

There was little rain to hinder turnout this year at the city-owned Eagle Bend Golf Course, which for the first time in years is on track to break even instead of lose money.

“Our first rain weekend was this past Saturday,” John Morris, golf course operations supervisor, said. “When you have your first rain-out weekend in October … that makes a big difference.”

The course, which has seen its share of financial losses, is headed to one of its best years on record for revenue, said Fred DeVictor, the city’s Parks and Recreation director.

“We don’t know yet this last quarter what’s going to happen,” DeVictor said. “We could have our second best year ever as far as revenue.”

Clear skies and the 15-month closure of Lawrence Country Club for a facelift helped boost business at Eagle Bend. A nine-month report by the Lawrence Parks and Recreation Department showed the course’s revenue was $920,500, which is $14,300 less than the total revenue for 2005 – and with three months to go.

Morris said the course could break even this year, good news given it has yet to meet the financial expectations that accompanied its construction.

In the latest report, projected revenue for the year was estimated at $1,091,250 and projected operating costs were expected to be $1,022,786.

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

From left, Clayton Burklund, Byron Roblyer and Mert Bigham, all of Topeka, play the back nine holes Wednesday at Eagle Bend Golf Course. The city-owned course, which opened in 1998, has come under public scrutiny for not being able to pay its own way, but this year it may break even.

DeVictor said the course, which opened in 1998, hit a peak in 2001 with more than $1 million in revenue, but then skidded into a rough patch in the economic downturn after 9/11.

It also competes with all the other courses in the region, he said. DeVictor said the city provides bigger subsidies for many other public operations, such as the swimming pools and cemetery operations.

“I think the community needs to look at the value of having a facility like this in the community,” DeVictor said.

He said the course saved money this year with the end of a five-year contract that placed global positioning systems on each of the golf carts. The system, added to set the course apart from others, ended up posing maintenance and other problems, and the city opted not to renew the agreement.

Morris said the course hopes to keep income up next year by having more tournaments, expanding leagues and offering more specials.

And, perhaps, the course will get lucky again as it did this year.

“Lucky? I call it fortunate,” Morris said. “I don’t believe in luck. Yes, we were fortunate this year. It goes along with good weather, with Lawrence Country clubbers here. Sure. Sure, we were fortunate.”