Government and Sports Business

City sinks $2.75M into improvements for Indian Trails Golf Course

This renovation should be the last one the golf course needs, officials say.

September 18, 2015
| By Pat Evans |
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Lance Climie believes the city is investing funds into Indian Trails Golf Course for the last time.

City commissioners approved a $2.75 million project for the course two weeks ago, and it should be underway by November. Climie, the clubhouse manager at Indian Trails, said bids for the project will be opened Oct. 3 and a selection will be made by Oct. 27.

The commission voted 5-2, with both First Ward commissioners Walt Gutowski and Dave Shaffer voting against the project with hesitations about the investment. The money will come from the city’s Transformation Fund.

Climie said 87 years of relative neglect has taken its toll on the golf course as only the most direly needed capital improvements have been made during its history.

He said last year, the club hosted approximately 30,000 rounds of golf, which was enough for more than $34,000 in net revenue but not enough to keep the course going. The course’s fiscal year ends at the end of June.

Indian Trails ran a deficit of nearly $110,000 in both 2012 and 2013.

“Our operation is bringing in black numbers, but there is no way it can keep up,” Climie said. “The capital improvements will be overwhelming.”

Without repairing the infrastructure, the course would further disintegrate and, eventually, the city would abandon the golf course, he said.

Abandoning the course would still come with the cost of mowing the park to city standards — Indian Trails falls under the city’s Parks and Recreation Department — at a cost of nearly $80,000 a year.

The city had considered selling the course as recently as 2007 — Climie said Meijer Inc. was strongly interested — before it was faced with public opposition to the idea.

“As it dies, you lose business,” Climie said. “The improvements … will make this facility sustainable in the long run. This will be the last funds the city has to put into this course, ever.”

Several golf courses have closed over the past decade, including Grand Rapids Golf Club on Leonard Street NE and Centennial Country Club in Cascade Township.

The main goal of the project is to put in a driving range, which was suggested when the city hired consultants to look at possibilities for the course in 2012. The consultants also suggested the course be moved under the county’s supervision and shifted to a nine-hole executive course.

The rest of the project will include five new holes to make room for the range and short-game practice area and general maintenance. Holes 2, 17 and 18 would be removed for the driving range.

Included in the general maintenance will be a new irrigation system to replace the 25-year-old system for which new parts are no longer made.

The driving range would be expected to add nearly $86,000 annually, said Climie, who added that green fee increases aren’t planned as they wouldn’t be enough to drive the bottom line.

“People with driving ranges are a little tight-lipped,” he said. “We know Kaufman Golf Course is around that.”

The range would cost $1.3 million. Another $1.2 million would go to deferred maintenance and $125,000 would go to maintenance and operation equipment.

The city estimates a 19-year payback on the investment.

With the majority of excavation done before winter, Climie said the plan is to begin seeding and fine-tuning the range and new holes by next spring. Until all 18 holes are ready, the course will continue play as an 11-hole course.

Once finished, Indian Trails will go from a par-68 course to a par 65 with an increased slope rating. It will have seven par-3 holes, with the rest being par 4. The new holes will be constructed with greens similar to the existing greens, which are not in compliance with United States Golf Association since the course was built before the organization existed.

The new improvements are expected to help bring in more golfers and more money.

Projections have the number of nine-hole rounds increasing from 29,000 in 2017 to 33,000 in 2020 — 41 percent of possible capacity for the course. There were 24,774 rounds played in 2012; 27,698 in 2014; and 28,532 in 2015.

Monetarily, the course is expected to lose money in 2016, with projected revenues of $474,680 and expenditures totaling $513,787. Revenue is projected to bump up to $724,499 in 2017 and rise to $784,275 in 2020.

The long-term impact will outlast the short-term hit on the city’s budget, Climie said.

“A lot of times, people don’t look at the long term,” he said. “This will create a cash flow for the facility to keep us going forever in the future.”

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