Glen Lakes Golf Course reopens

Council gives 90-day notice to begin sales process as citizens continue attempt to save 52-year old course
By: 
DARRELL JACKSON, Glendale Star Editor

Photo by Darrell Jackson

Phil Erickson holds a sign saying “Open Glen Lakes Now” during a protest before the Nov. 27 city council workshop as a handful of residents tried to urge councilmembers not to close the golf course.
 

Photo by Darrell Jackson

Councilmembers listen to City Manager Kevin Phelps discuss the costs related to keeping Glen Lakes Golf Course open or closing it and selling the land for future development during the Nov. 27 workshop.
 

After more than 50 years as a golf course, Glendale City Council has made a final decision on the future of Glen Lakes Golf Course during its Nov. 27 workshop, which had the course re-open Dec. 1, as staff begins researching the possible sale of the land.
Councilmembers are expected to vote at their Dec. 11 meeting to issue a 90-day notice to cancel the city’s contract with the course manager, Golf Maintenance Solutions 5W LLC (GMS).
The course re-opened at 7 a.m. Dec. 1 out of interim facilities. The course will be available for play from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily.
GMS was awarded a $429,500 management contract in July to manage the course through June 30, 2019, but council can cancel the contract with a 90-day written notice.
The 52-year-old course at 5450 W. Northern Ave. sits on 44.6 acres of city-owned land. The nine-hole, executive-length golf course opened in 1966 and is a Par 33, totaling 2,403 yards. The city initially purchased the course for $1.1 million in 1979 and has operated it through a series of qualified golf course management firms since then.
A handful of residents were present with signs saying, “Save Glen Lakes,” and “Kiss Your Grass Goodbye” among other statements in support of saving the course.
Workshop presentation
During the presentation, staff started with original estimates for capital investment needed to restore the course at between $5.1 million to $7.6 million.
“That original estimate was what is needed for design costs, demolition and construction of a clubhouse, pro shop, maintenance facility, course restroom, irrigation systems and other needs at the course,” Field Operations Director Michelle Woytenko said.  “After staff redesigned a smaller clubhouse, repairing the current restroom and golf cart storage with no kitchen or food service, the new number is $1.525 million.”
Original estimates on capital investment that would be required by the city to get the course up to standards include $2.125 to $2.975 million for design and construction of a new pro shop and clubhouse, $800,000 to replace the irrigation system, and $750,000 for a new maintenance facility among the highest costs.
Staff worked to improve the estimates, and reduced the size of the clubhouse down to 4,000 square feet and a tent to cover the maintenance areas instead of a building.
“We got more information from GMS about capital investment needs for the course and the estimates are for design costs, construction of pro shop and clubhouse, maintenance facility, course restroom, irrigation systems and other needs at the course,” Woytenko said. “We looked at assuming just a 4,000-square-foot clubhouse and pro shop with no food kitchen or food service and the new number is $1.525 million for the clubhouse.”
Within the new estimates of $2.125 to $2.975 million costs, Woytenko said there was a large wiggle room when it comes to the costs.
“A third of the total is the clubhouse and pro shop and I am not very comfortable with the $1.5 million estimate,” Woytenko said. “I think those numbers may be a little low and if we move forward with these numbers, we may have to come back for more funding in the future.”
Also, if council had agreed to continue to run the golf course, Assistant City Manager Duensing said the city would have to borrow funds for the project.
“If the course was to remain, the city would have to find the money, which would add to the debt service,” Duensing said. “If we financed the project, we would have to recoup $550,819 of original estimates to $274,664 in the new lower estimates from user fees for the course based on staff estimates.”

Course numbers
GMS took over operation of the course in March after Thom Harrison of Arizona Golf Ventures was removed as operator. Arizona Golf Ventures had managed the course since 2012 and recently notified the city it was facing difficult times.
For fiscal year 2018-19, GMS budgeted for a net loss of $251,635, which the city is required to cover at the end of the fiscal year.
Since GMS took over, it has made improvements to the course and has shown increase of 2 percent in play over the time.
In presenting council the options of continuing to own and maintain the course beyond the end of the year, Duensing showed the estimates of revenue versus expenses each month through June 2019.
“I based my numbers on the 2 percent increase in rounds against the 12 percent lower expenses that GMS has done since July,” Duensing said.
In staff numbers, the course has shown revenue of $15,646 in July, $16,224 in August and $8,700 in September based on rounds played on the course.
Even with the increased play and lower reported expenses, the course was costing the city more than $80,000.
“We got actual numbers from GMS for July through September on revenues and expenses and they still had a net loss of $88,126,” Duensing said.
Through November, GMS has also cut budgeted expenses by 12 percent, which has lowered the projected net loss to the city down to approximately $183,115.
“That is still what the cost to the city is at the end of the fiscal year,” Duensing said.
The reports showed that the course only had a projected profit in three months out of the year with an estimated $10,919 in January, $9,628 in February and $58 in March.
Every other month showed a net loss to the city, ranging from an estimated loss of $3,646 in April 2019 to a high of $36,943 (actual loss) in September this year.
Green space versus golf course
After the Nov.13 workshop presentation to council after the course was forced closed after a building inspector said the buildings were unsafe to occupy, Barrel District Councilmember Bart Turner requested the costs if the course was closed with no golf, opposed to the course open with golf.
Staff estimates presented Nov. 27 said the difference in cost to the city was projected to be small.
“What would the cost to the city be with golf for 90 days as opposed to no golf for 90 days, and the short answer is it would be a little better off with golf,” Duensing said. “Based on estimates from staff, the city would be better off by around $5,200 with golf for 90 days.”
The 90-day estimates were based on the written cancellation of the contract with GMS that is required in the original contract to run the course.
Along with the capital investments needed at the course, staff reported that should council decide to save the course, the costs would increase each fiscal year.
“The original issue in October was is the annual cost that the city would have to incur to keep Glen Lakes as a golf course,” Duensing said. “For fiscal year 2018-19, our revised estimate is that it will cost the city $402,980.”
Duensing said that for fiscal years 2019-20 and 2020-21, costs would increase.
“Moving forward, the difference between the revised estimates for the next two fiscal years is it would cost the city an estimated $665,829 each year,” Duensing said. “Those numbers include the estimates on the increased rounds of golf, those numbers are included in that number.”
Mayor Jerry Weiers asked Duensing, how close he thought the estimates were for keeping the course open long-term.
“That is somewhat of a loaded question,” Duensing said. “I would say they are exactly right, but it is difficult to say. If we maintain the course, there would be a big effort to increase play out there. But to generate an additional $665,829, we are looking at an additional 33,000 rounds to make the course self-sustaining.”

Residents continue efforts
The Save Glen Lakes group that has been fighting the closure of the course still believe they can save the course, posting a request on social media they were, “ACTIVELY SEEKING A PRIVATE OWNER TO RUN GLEN LAKES AS A GOLF COURSE. The solution to keeping Glen Lakes is find someone to BUY the golf course. Supporters are actively looking for a buyer for the course. Do you know of a potential buyer, are you a realtor that can help?”
Many said they will continue to fight to save the course. Discussion with numerous councilmembers said they would listen to residents.
“I am willing to listen if they can come up with hard money to have someone purchase the course,” Sahuaro Councilmember Ray Malnar said. “Of course, if we were to agree to sell it to someone, it would have to have a caveat that it remain a golf course for a number of years.”
Other councilmembers said they will listen, but believe it is time to think of every resident of Glendale.
“We are charged with looking at what is best for the entire city of Glendale, not just the residents surrounding the course,” Yucca Councilmember Joyce Clark said. “Do we want to spend that kind of capital to rescue a golf course that, arguably, will never pay for itself and can we afford to do that.”
Clark added that while the final decision is difficult, she did not believe the city should continue to subsidize the course.
“I think about O’Neil pool that closed five years ago and you have probably a minimum 5,000 kids that now have no place to recreate in that area,” Clark said. “I have been on the fence during this entire process and I come back to it is a matter of competing interest and I hate to see one part of the city fighting with other parts of the city and that has been characterized in this.”

 

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