City ready to award new golf contracts

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.

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.

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.”

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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