No decision yet on golf course operators

No decision yet on golf course operators

Lucinda Ryan

Two candidates vying to operate the Chuck Corica Golf Course pitched their proposals at a City Council hearing Tuesday, causing one audience member to change her mind on the spot about which proposal she preferred. After hearing from the current interim course operator, KemperSports, and from Greenway Golf, Alamedan Karen Bey said she came to support Kemper but after hearing Greenway’s proposal she supported its plan instead.

The major difference between the firm’s proposals lies in the amount of change their plans would make to the golf complex. Kemper’s goal is to improve all 36 holes and all of the greens, and maintain the feel of the course as it is now. Greenway hopes to do more redesign for a links-style golf course.

To Bey, the redesign was the better concept.

“Let a signature golf course do for Harbor Bay Isle what the theater did for Park Street,” she said, adding that the redesigned course would generate new income and new interest and turn it into a destination site for more players, and increase revenue to the city.

Each firm is offering at least $3 million to rent the course over two decades, with Greenway seeking a five-year renewal option and Kemper asking for a 10-year option. Each company has at least $6 million listed in their proposals for renovations, although they vary in the expenditures planned for different courses in the complex
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About 25 community members attended the hearing.

Steve Lesnik, founder and principal stockholder of KemperSports Management and Kemper Lesnik Communications said his firm’s strong points include familiarity with the Corica Complex, having operated it since 2009.

“We continue to manage and market Corica in professional manner,” he said. “We know the complex well; we have a good relationship with city staff; we know the local market and the golfers. All of that goes a long way toward our understanding of what’s needed here.”

He said Kemper expects to pay/invest over $15 million to the city over the next 20 years.

George Kelley, Greenway's chief executive officer, began his presentation with an overview of Alameda’s golf history, mentioning the Alameda Commuters Tournament, which began in 1927, is one of the oldest tournaments in the country. But in discussing Greenway's plans to renovate the complex, he said a link-style course is the way to go because it is easier and more fun for most people to play. He said that birds would be protected and his firm has converted all of its energy to solar power.

Mayor Marie Gilmore asked if any trees would need to be removed for a links course and the answer, from another Greenway representative, said yes, but those trees that would be felled, eucalyptus and some sub-species, “aren’t very good specimens in the first place.”

Kelly said his firm also does golf construction work so there wouldn’t be a need to go outside for that service. He said the company would import about a million yards of dirt and re-contour and reshape all the holes.

Greenway projects generating more than $11 million to the city over the next 20 years.

Responding to Councilman Rob Bonta’s question about rate raises for golfers, both firms’ representatives said they would work to preserve residential golfers’ rates, but may raise rates for non-locals.

Councilman Doug DeHaan said he is excited to have two proposals from professionals in the field. “It will be difficult at best to choose one,” he said.

Victor Quintell, who worked at the complex's Pro Shop, told the council liked Kemper’s plan. “I get the feeling that people don’t want to play a links course,” he said, adding he didn’t like the idea of removing trees. Links courses, he said, have no trees, bushes or shrubs.

Resident Tim Skates also backed the Kemper proposal, saying it is “more in line with what golfers in Alameda desire”, and that since Kemper has been in charge of the complex it has done nothing but improve.

One speaker said Kemper hadn’t kept its promises in the past and its representatives would say whatever they thought the city wants to hear to make a deal.

Ray Ball, a member of the Golf Commission who said he was speaking only for himself, was concerned about the number of trips and the time taken that hauling in soil would require. He also said he couldn’t envision a links course at the complex’s South Course.

The city will discuss the proposals again in a public meeting in May.

For more details about the proposals and the companies, see the previous story, Prospective golf complex managers to present to council Tuesday." Information is also in the story about the city’s impetus to find a private operator and about recent years’ revenues from the golf course.

Comments

Submitted by Karen Bey on Mon, Apr 9, 2012

The main purpose in hiring an asset manager for the golf complex is to create a plan that will increase revenues over the long term. I agree with some of the points raised by the city council, that it’s difficult to see how we accomplish that with a “repairs and maintenance” type project, which is the plan that Kemper presented. In their plan, we make little to no changes to the design, and in 20 to 30 years we end up exactly where we started.

What I liked about the Greenway plan was the “signature redesign”. Their plan showed that a signature redesign would create new interest in Alameda’s Golf Complex and generate an increase in revenues --- which is the goal. I also believe that an exciting new golf course development could spur the redevelopment of the Harbor Bay Landing shopping center which has become a blight to the community.

Kemper Sports developed an Arnold Palmer Signature Golf Course in their Hawthorn Woods development in Illinois. If the city agrees to invest $1M towards the project and sign a 20 to 30 year contract, I’d like to see that $1M spent towards a signature redesign. It will be money well spent.

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