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11/13/2012 8:20:00 AM
Council tries to keep par with its course: Golfers want city to improve course, maintain fees
April Talley won the ladies club championship for seventh year Aug. 30 at the city-owned Lake Chelan Golf Course.Mirror file photo by Vince Lovato
April Talley won the ladies club championship for seventh year Aug. 30 at the city-owned Lake Chelan Golf Course.
Mirror file photo by Vince Lovato
SOME IDEAS...
Over the course of the meeting several ideas were shared, including:
* Tiered green fees for local players and visitors;
* Regional golf tournaments
* Marketing, especially to younger players
* Tying the course to other major events in the community
Vince Lovato can be contacted at editor@lakechelanmirror.com.

Vince Lovato
Editor

Golfers packed the Chelan City Council Chambers on Thursday with two clear, forceful messages for council members: The city's municipal golf course is in disrepair and don't raise rates so high we can't afford to play.

The council hosted a Golf Management Workshop and invited the public to make comments as part of an ongoing plan to review the efficiency of each city department; a process they call performance audits.

Some council members believe the course is running in the red and could easily pay for itself with some changes in management, including the possibility of contracting with a company that specializes in course management.

"Nobody is looking to sell the course, or raise rates," said Councilman Mike Cooney. "We are the caretakers of city's money and we want to make sure it's a great and affordable course we can maintain for years and years."

But many of the golfers weren't convinced.
Several of them said the majority of golfers are retirees on fixed incomes. Others said the course has been mismanaged since it became part of the Recreation and Parks Department.

"Most of folks who support the course are retired seniors," said Dan Dedo, of Manson. "If revenue is the spirit of the meeting tonight, and if it's just to raise revenue, you will lose membership."

Mark Lawrence, the course's PGA-trained assistant golf pro, works most of the year at the course when it's open from spring to late fall but drives a snowplow for the parks department in the off months. His salary comes exclusively out of the parks budget to operate the course, he said.

"No one has approached me or (Golf Pro) Jim Oscarson about how to increase revenues," Lawrence said. "I am college educated and trained to operate golf courses."

Lawrence and others questioned the reasons for bringing in two private golf course managers to review the course with council members Erin McCardle and Michael Steele. Steele is also the Lake Chelan Chamber of Commerce Director and McCardle organizes large-scale special events. Both are considered marketing experts, especially at tourists.

"One thing that struck me (on the tour), that we underestimate with this course, is how great it is," McCardle said. "It is not marketed as the beautiful place that it is. I was also impressed with how well this group we met with ran their courses with long-term management."

She said it was hard to make long-term budget decisions because the council only gets annual requests for capital improvements and equipment.

"If we know ahead of time what we need, we can plan for that," she said. "This is an amenity that should not be subsidized by taxes but on the revenues it generates. My biggest takeaway was the great potential our course has."

City Finance Director Cheryl Grant told golfers that the course expenses are going up while revenues keep going down over the last three seasons and the city made $900,000 in capital improvements over the last 10 years.

But golfer Mike Talley questioned the math.

"I am having some trouble with the numbers," he said. "This is a big surprise that there have been $900,000 (in improvements) in 10 years. All you've done is rip out trees.'

He said the city did not replace a former course manager several years ago that should have saved the course some money.

"If you want to throw (numbers) at us, we want to know what you did," he said. "If you added $80,000, I want to know where the money went. We're here to take care of ourselves. Not bring in someone from outside to take care of us."

The golfers responded with one of several rounds of applause.

Mayor Bob Goedde said the council members have heard about all the problems and asked all the golfers to submit written solutions instead.

Over the course of the meeting several ideas were shared, including:
* Tiered green fees for local players and visitors;
* Regional golf tournaments
* Marketing, especially to younger players
* Tying the course to other major events in the community
Vince Lovato can be contacted at editor@lakechelanmirror.com.





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