Lawrence City Commission to review new amenities and partnership intended to make golf course profitable

Eagle Bend Golf Course is pictured on Monday, April 17, 2017.

At its meeting Tuesday, the Lawrence City Commission will decide whether to approve changes to the city-owned golf course that intend to get its bottom line of out of the red.

The Eagle Bend Golf Course, located just east of the Clinton Lake dam, opened about 20 years ago, and city officials say the course needs certain additions to become profitable.

“The setup out there has been the same since we opened the golf course, so it’s time to renew and renovate a little bit,” said Mark Hecker, assistant director of the Parks and Recreation Department.

Following an increase in fees at the beginning of last year, the 18-hole golf course made about $15,000 more than it did in 2015. Still, revenue for the course still lagged expenses by about $3,000 in 2016, according to a city memo provided to the commission. The course’s total budgeted expenditures for this year are about $946,000.

On Tuesday, the commission will decide whether to approve the first two phases of a proposed three-phase improvement project for Eagle Bend. Phase one and two are estimated to cost $165,000 and call for the purchase of 12 to 18 additional golf carts, the construction of a new golf cart storage shed, renovation of the former shed, as well as a partnership with the Kansas Golf Association.

The renovation of the current storage shed would create event and office space. The Kansas Golf Association, a nonprofit organization that administers and promotes amateur golf, would lease the office space for its headquarters and partner with the city to develop programming at Eagle Bend.

The changes are projected to increase revenue in two ways. For one, the proposed partnership with Kansas Golf Association aims to increase local interest in golf and help attract more tournaments to the course. Projections indicate that the Kansas Golf Association lease and sponsorship will generate $25,200 in annual profit and another $14,000 in additional event revenue.

Hecker said the course already hosts some tournaments and that additional tournament play would be balanced with public use.

“There’s a mix that’s achievable that we could do tournaments and open to public, so we’re watching that pretty tightly,” Hecker said. “But these bigger tournaments produce revenue obviously, so all this kind of ties back to making the golf course a little more able to produce its own revenue.”

Secondly, Hecker said the current fleet of 62 golf carts limits the course’s ability to host tournaments and serve the public. Projections indicate that 12 additional carts would bring in $14,400 in annual profits. Apart from tournaments, Hecker said the limited number of carts sometimes causes them to have to turn people away.

“On a nice weekend, when it’s 75 degrees or something, we’re running out of carts just from the daily traffic out there,” Hecker said.

The course offers 18 holes, nine holes, driving ranges, putting greens, as well as lessons and clinics, according to the city’s website. In addition to the fee increase made last year, annual passes were replaced with discount cards. Weekend and holiday prices for 18 holes are now $28 for walking and $49 for cart rental, with lower prices on weekdays and discounts for juniors and seniors.

The third phase of the project is a $350,000 expansion of the clubhouse. The project would expand the clubhouse’s event space, concessions and restroom facilities. However, the third phase of the project won’t come before the commission until next year.

Hecker said that originally the project was one package, but that the multiphase setup would allow the commission to review the course’s revenue following phases one and two before deciding on the clubhouse. If the plan is approved Tuesday, construction of the new cart storage facility would be completed by June, and the renovation of the current storage shed by September.

The City Commission will convene at 5:45 p.m. Tuesday at City Hall, 6 E. Sixth St.