Once the temperature rises and golfers return to the greens, those who typically purchase 12-month passes to Lawrence’s city-owned golf course will find that they’re no longer available.
They’ll find there have been other changes to the course, too.
Lawrence’s Parks and Recreation Department replaced Eagle Bend Golf Course’s annual passes with discount cards, increased fees and reworked other areas of its business plan with the intent to increase revenue by more than $100,000 this year.
Mark Hecker, assistant director of the Parks and Recreation Department, told the City Commission on Tuesday that Eagle Bend Golf Course ended 2015 in the red. He presented a list of changes to the course’s operations that went into effect this month.
“This year we lost money,” Hecker told commissioners. “We spent a little bit more than we brought in; that’s something we want to correct.”
Eagle Bend 2016 business plan ( .PDF )
Hecker estimated the golf course had expenses that came in about $24,000 over revenue in 2015.
Golfers previously had the option of purchasing annual passes, which they could use any time, that were priced at either $1,000 for golf only and $1,500 for golf with the use of a cart.
Based on pass-holders’ frequency of use, some golfers were paying $8 per round on weekends, for which the city could charge one-time users more than $40, Hecker said.
Interim City Manager Diane Stoddard said the pass-holders “tend to take up some of the best tee times… which is a challenge for us, revenue wise.”
“That doesn’t help us very much on the bottom line revenue,” Hecker added. “We don’t want to get away from the folks who want to get out and play a whole bunch of golf, but we do want to control the discounts.”
In place of the annual passes, golfers who want to purchase multiple rounds at one time will receive a discount, Hecker said. For example, he said, someone could purchase 10 rounds at once to receive a 20 percent discount.
The most rounds anyone can buy at once will be capped at 100, and the lowest discounted price per round will be $20, Hecker said.
Fees — which were increased anywhere from $1 to $4, depending on how many holes are played and when and whether golfers are using a cart — will fluctuate based on day of the week and what other courses in the region are charging at any given time.
Parks and Rec could make changes to course operations without a City Commission vote because commissioners voted unanimously in December to allow the department to alter course fees without their approval.
Prior to that action, fees for the course were discussed and approved yearly.
“They appreciate the flexibility in being able to be more competitive and appropriate with the market on fees,” Stoddard said Tuesday.
Besides increasing fees and eliminating annual passes, Parks and Rec plans to increase revenue by bringing in more tournaments, offering more clinics and lessons, recruiting more sponsorships, improving food and beverage offerings and improving management of the tee schedule.
The department expects it can increase revenue by $6,000 by moving the men’s league to Thursdays. According to Parks and Rec’s 2015 guide, the men’s league had been held on Tuesdays and Sundays.
The changes are estimated to help Eagle Bend generate $119,000 more in 2016 than it did in 2015. The increased greens and cart fees are estimated to increase revenue by $50,000, and the elimination of the annual passes will save approximately $24,000, according to the business plan.
The plan also lists improvements the department plans to make to the course and facilities this year, including sodding, leveling tees and improving the parking lot entrance.
If funding allows, the department wants to hire an architect to design more restrooms and seating for the pro shop. That project would happen in 2017.
Also, if funding allows, Parks and Rec will replace mowers and other equipment this fall.
Hecker partly blamed failing revenues in 2015 on the weather. Golfers stayed away during a half-dozen weekends in the summer because the course was "swamped out," Hecker said, costing the course an approximate $10,000 to $15,000 per weekend.
“Going forward, we want to make this more profitable,” Hecker said. “There is equipment we want to replace, there are things we want to do to run that business out there.”