An agreement is being negotiated to have the Florida-based management firm take over the operation of a course that has operated at a deficit of more than $670,000 over the past seven years.
The City of Asheville, N.C. is on the verge of getting out of a golf course business that has operated at a deficit of more than $670,000 over the past seven years, The Asheville Citizen-Times reported.
Pending final negotiations with Pope Golf, the city plans to lease Asheville Municipal Golf Course to the Florida-based management company. Parks and Recreation director Roderick Simmons told The Citizen-Times that an agreement could be in place in time for Asheville’s City Council to vote on the transfer of management when meeting on August 14.
A draft of the lease agreement calls for Pope to take over management of the course for five years, with the city receiving 10 percent of the annual gross revenue from the course, excluding golf shop and food-and-beverage sales, The Citizen-Times reported.
Based on figures from the just completed fiscal year, that would project to give the city an annual profit of about $70,000—a stark contrast to the past seven years, when annual losses ranged from $34,872 to $197,546, The Citizen-Times reported.
Over the past four years, including a projected deficit of more than $61,000 in the most recent fiscal year that ended June 30, the course has operated at a loss of more than $539,000.
The annual deficit was $178,833 in 2008-09 and $197,546 in 2009-10—two seasons that included two very harsh winters when the course was often closed or received little play. Losses dropped to $101,900 and $61,144 the past two fiscal years.
Concerned by the consistent losses, the city began looking for outside management options last year, The Citizen-Times reported. Eight bids were received from management companies earlier this year and the contenders were narrowed to Pope Golf and Kitson & Partners before Pope was selected.
“We think Pope is a good company with a good track record, and we’re confident they can offer better service than we are currently able to provide,” Simmons told The Citizen-Times.
“We’re excited about the opportunity of coming to Asheville to manage the course,” Jerry Moore, President of Pope Golf, told The Citizen-Times. “We’re still negotiating, but we’re pretty confident we can get a deal done.
“We’re not looking to come in and raise prices or cut expenses,” Moore added. “We think we can run at peak efficiency, do more marketing and better tee sheet management to increase revenues, offer some seasonal discounts, and improve the quality of the product.”
Pope Golf has been in business since 2004 and manages eight courses—seven in Florida and one in Tennessee, Moore told The Citizen-Times. The management firm has 246 employees and $14 million in annual revenues.
Gregg Kuchar, of Asheville, N.C., who plays Asheville Municipal GC a couple of times a week and advertises his financial services business on the course’s scorecards, told The Citizen-Times “ I have no idea how this will work out, but I wish [Pope Golf] the best.”
“I hope they kept the costs neutral and keep the course in good shape, because it’s in excellent shape now,” added Kuchar, whose nephew is PGA Tour player Matt Kuchar. “There’s not much a new group could do to make the course better than it is now.”
Charles Coxie, 79, who has been playing at the municipal course since 1952, told The Citizen-Times that he didn’t “understand what the city is doing or why they would give up control of the course.”
“You’re bringing in somebody else to run this, and we just have to take what they [provide],” said Coxie. “The course has come a long ways in terms of getting better, and it’s a commodity the city should be able to run.”