City Government and Local Government and Indy Parks and Golf and Government & Economic Development and Sports/Recreation and Sports Business

City ready to award new golf contracts

December 18, 2009

Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard's administration has chosen five local contractors to run 12 municipal golf courses for the next 10 years, and expects to get $6.3 million in capital improvements out of the deal.

The proposed contracts are the result of a request for proposals that went out this past summer. They won’t take effect without City-County Council approval. The council’s parks committee signed off on the proposals Thursday night, and the full council is scheduled to vote Jan. 11.

Ballard’s office is looking for new ways to cover looming expenses. Indy Parks, which has been responsible for upgrading its golf courses, faced an estimated $5.7 million in deferred maintenance costs.

Meanwhile, the current agreements are not exactly flooding the city coffers with revenue. Although the courses collectively bring in about $5.3 million a year, just $1.3 million went to the city in 2008.

The city would see far less cash, an estimated $400,000 to $450,000 a year, under the new contracts. But Indy Parks Director Stuart Lowry said getting $6 million in improvements and paying no maintenance costs for 10 years is a better deal for the city. Lowry called the overall proposal a “pretty phenomenal step forward.”

One of the major improvements would be a new clubhouse at William Sahm Golf Course in Castleton, which incumbent general manager Thomas Cooprider has agreed to build by 2012.

The city would also dodge a $660,000 balloon payment that’s due on the relatively new clubhouse at Smock Golf Course near Southport. The RFP required any new operator to assume the outstanding debt.

The city would award Smock to R.N. Thompson Golf, which currently has the contract for Coffin Golf Club, Riverside Golf Course and Riverside Golf Academy. Bob Thompson, principle of R.N. Thompson, has donated proceeds from Riverside for the past 15 years to St. Mary’s Child Center, a free preschool that serves 200 children from around the city.

It appears that running the Smock course would allow Thompson to continue that arrangement. He declined to comment until the contracts were approved.

The city fielded 13 proposals, including a few from regional and national companies. All of the chosen contractors are already involved in the city’s courses.

Eagle Creek manager Jerry Hayslett got together with two other local professionals, Bill Krohne and Brad Beck, to form Capital City Golf.

The new partnership would run A.J. Thatcher Golf Course, where Hayslett already holds the contract, as well as Winding River and South Grove. Two other local golf pros currently run the latter courses.

Don Essig, who has operated South Grove for the past 17 years, said he was disappointed to hear from Hayslett–and not city officials–that he’d lost the contract.

“I’m very glad they kept local people and didn’t go out of state or something like that,” Essig added. “I grew up playing public course golf. I want to see the best for ‘em.”

Hayslett also operates Eagle Creek. The city left that course out of the bidding process because Hayslett expanded it in 2007 and has a contract that runs through 2014.

Following is the proposed new lineup of contractors and courses:

– M.A.N. Golf Management, led by Mark A. Nance: Coffin, Riverside, Riverside Golf Academy;

– Capital City Golf, led by Jerry Hayslett: South Grove, Thatcher, Winding River (starting in 2011);

 – Denny Ford: Pleasant Run, Sarah Shank;

 – R.N. Thompson Golf, led by Bob Thompson: Smock;

 – Cooprider Golf Management, led by Tom and Liz Cooprider: Sahm, Douglass, Whispering Hills.

 

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