Archive for Friday, May 29, 2009

Alvamar drives to privatize

Public golf course will become private if membership numbers reach certain point

May 29, 2009


Alvamar Inc., now made up of one public and one private 18-hole golf course, announced Thursday night specifics of what it markets as “The Drive to Privatize,” a plan to make both courses private provided enough members can be recruited.

If Alvamar can raise its dues-paying golf membership number to 575, the public course will become private on weekends, Alvamar president Dick Stuntz said. If the number reaches 650 members, the course will be all private, all the time.

“We’ll continue to have organized tournaments and events,” Stuntz said.

The public course at Alvamar, a longer, more wide-open course than the private 18 holes, generally is preferred by long hitters. The private course has trickier greens, tighter fairways and more dog-leg layouts that can frustrate golfers who crush their tee shots.

After crunching the numbers, Stuntz said it became apparent that it would make more financial sense for Alvamar to increase membership to the point of becoming all-private, even though that would mean losing the revenue generated by non-members playing the public course.

“Public play is nowhere near capacity,” Stuntz said.

Stuntz said the club now has 505 dues-paying golf memberships, up from 256 in March 1, 2007.

The key to the enormous growth in membership at a time when most clubs in Kansas City and throughout the country are experiencing declining membership numbers? Slashing prices.

In March, the club announced that if the dues-paying membership could increase to 475, everybody’s monthly dues would be reduced to $195, which recently happened. Full-family monthly dues had been priced as high as $375, Stuntz said. A membership initiation fee that had reached as high as $3,000 now is $300. Before moving to $195 monthly dues for all members, Alvamar offered various membership packages with wide-ranging price tags.

“We realized with such a wide variety it wasn’t really a fair system,” Stuntz said. “We didn’t think it was sustainable.”

The competition between Alvamar and Lawrence Country Club has made it easier for golfers to join private clubs locally. Lawrence Country Club, born in 1914 and reborn in 2006 when it re-opened after major renovations that have been well-received, has lowered its initiation fee to $1,500, all of which can be earned back at $100 per month.

Meanwhile, city-owned Eagle Bend Golf Course, which consistently has had more affordable rates than Alvamar public, will be watching closely developments at Alvamar because in the event the public course becomes private, that likely would lead to increased play at what would become the city’s only public 18-hole golf course. (Orchard Hills, a nine-hole executive course, also is open to the public).

Stuntz made the announcement about Alvamar’s goal to privatize at a member-appreciation party, telling those gathered in the bar adjacent to the formal dining room that the purpose of the evening was three-fold: “One, to celebrate the 475 (membership threshold) success. Two, to announce the drive to privatize. Three, to eat and drink.”

Alvamar public opened in 1968. What is now the back side of Alvamar private opened in 1973, the front in 1978. That course was privatized in 1978.


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