City ready to award new golf contracts

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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.



  • There's an untapped market of players
    Pardon me if I can't spell as badly as everyone else. (Teachers must be proud when they see how people write.)

    There are plenty of people who haven't learned how to play golf, and might be lured into giving it a go. I'm forty-seven and I've never been familiar with golf. The only thing I've done related to golf is juggling (golf) clubs. (I stopped with the "standard" juggling clubs with five at a time.) It's not as much fun as juggling bowling balls, but it'll do.

    If they were to create a "Late Bloomers" program, I'm guessing there will be plenty of takers - should they hear about it. (something the news people should use as filler.)
  • Really
    Yes I too remember when the city golf courses were run by the city. I beleive that it is accurate to say the the revenue from the golf courses were the highest line item that the parks dept. had. For those of us that have played city golf courses all of our lives remember that the parks dept. did not put one penny back into any of the courses. No irrigation system or antiquated at best, no cart paths, run down clubhouses, very poor playing conditions. Its amazing the people, that probably have never operated a business, some how become experts at running everyone elses. The golf business has been on the decline for the past ten years, with revenues down 12% annually. And yet with cost increasing annually these operators are still providing good product at a great value. Next time you plop your pittance of $12 on the counter of one of these golf course, think to yourself just how far can that measly amount be spread. Really?
  • JaWeRa and Harvey F.
    From your comments it seems you both think golf courses should, or do, generate significant profits from revenue generated. Is there some sort of information/factual evidence you have for that belief? I ask this because my job requires me to analyze business financials for loan requests....and I've found it difficult for most golf courses to even break even....let along make money.
  • shuffling favors?
    This has little to do with deferred expenses. When the public courses were operated by the city, it was the most profitable line-item in the parks dept with extra money to spread to less profitable efforts. They privatized them, and by in large lined the pockets of the operators and made a pittance off the deal. Now they say they are going to make even less on a yearly basis??! I thought we had Republicans in office! Don't they know how to make a deal?? This smells of political favors being paid to those owed. If IndyParks are concerned about money, they should bring the golf course back in and not privatize it... but these yahoos are too short sighted to realize this...
  • Not likely
    Only $5.3 million gross income from all the city golf courses? That is really hard to believe.

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