Leader Blues

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

TOP STORY >> Golf course best use of the land, park study says

By RICK KRON
Leader staff writer

More than 150 people crowded into the Sherwood council chamber to hear representatives from ETC Engineering explain their plan for the city’s 16 parks.

Even though the audience made suggestions to improve many of the park plans and ideas, the vast majority were there to hear about park number 16—the 106-acre North Hills Golf Course property.

The city condemned and purchased the defunct golf course and country club last year at a price of $5.5 million and is making monthly payments of about $28,000 on the property.

The course has been dormant for about two years and the greens have died off and many of the sand traps have broken down. But many on the council want it to become an 18-hole golf course again.

The mostly pro golf course crowd applauded when Mizan Rahman with ETC agreed. “We did not look at the feasibility or the cost, but looked at what was the best use of the land,” he explained.

“Since it already was a golf course we felt that was the best use.”

Rahman added that his firm looked at the possibility of making a nine-hole course on the property and using the rest of the land for activities like a professional tennis center and a small water park.

“A nine-hole golf course would cost more than the 18-hole course,” he said, “because three holes would have to be completely redone for the nine-hole course.” Rahman also said the activity produced from a tennis center and a water park would be too intense for the area.

Rahman said he didn’t have any cost figures. That’ll be up to the city council. “Our job was to look at the best use for all the park lands, not the cost.”

Previous feasibility studies conducted in 2007 suggest it will take $1 million or more to get the golf course in shape and up to $500,000 a year for maintenance, equipment and personnel. Those studies suggested the course would lose money for the first three years before holding its own in its fourth year of operation—those figures were based on 23,000 to 30,000 rounds of golf being played there annually.

Landscape architect and golf course designer Steve Hales of ETI, at a council workshop earlier this month, suggested that it will cost $150,000 to rebuild the greens.

Other costs, according to Hales and others, just through 2009, include sprinkler system repairs at $100,000; maintenance and cart repairs at $50,000; clubhouse repairs at $50,000; signage, tools flags at $25,000; and equipment leasing at $28,000.

Salaries for six months would be $35,000 for a golf course superintendent; $13,500 for a full-time maintenance worker and $20,400 for two part-time laborers.

On a scale of 1 to 10, an initial investment of $500,000 would bring the course up to a 3 or 4 in quality, said Hales.

“Why don’t we do a trial run to just get it up and running to see how it holds up and to limit your investment, then later bring it to full potential,” Hales suggested at that workshop.

At the Monday night meeting, Karilyn Brown asked if the park study was really just a wish list and if the focus was going to be on the golf course, would it push back work and improvements for all the other parks.

Rahman said his company’s research highlighted those things that needed to be done now, then those that would be nice when money becomes available.

“You’ve got to have a plan or a dream as a starting point and then when money becomes available you do what you can,” he told the audience.

Carolyn Chalmers was worried about the cost of the golf course, citing the 2007 studies which said the greens’ fees needed to average about $24 per round and between 23,000 and 30,000 rounds of golf needed to be played.

Alderman Charlie Harmon said there has been no talk about fees except that they would be comparable to the courses around Sherwood. “It would be dumb of us not to be comparable,” he said.

Sherwood resident Steve Winchester said the land needed to be a golf course and as soon as possible. “Let’s take advantage of what we have. Let’s make it into something worthwhile. That land and that course mean a lot to a lot of people. Build it and they will come,” he said.

Another public meeting to discuss the golf course plans, as well as those for all the other parks is set for 5 p.m. Monday, May 11.