Bill Roberts Municipal GC to Keep Its Name

Two motions by the Helena, Mont., city council to change the name to either Hidden Creek Golf Course or Bill Roberts Hidden Creek Golf Course have failed. The bid to give the course a new name came as a result of a business plan created in 2009 and a renewed effort to draw more golfers to the municipal course.

The Bill Roberts Municipal Golf Course in Helena, Mont., will keep its name despite a proposed change intended to improve its ability to attract new golfers, the Helena (Mont.) Independent Record reported.

The initial motion by Commissioner Dick Thweatt to change the name to Hidden Creek Golf Course, recommended by the city’s Golf Advisory Board and supported by city staff, was set aside for a motion by Commissioner Matt Elsaesser who sought to modify the existing name, the Independent Record reported.

Elsaesser’s motion to blend the existing and proposed names into Bill Roberts Hidden Creek Golf Course failed on a 2-2 vote. The commission then acted on Thweatt’s motion, which also failed by the same tally. The commission’s votes came after nine people spoke on the golf board’s recommended change, the Independent Record reported.

The name, Hidden Creek Golf Course, is based on the golf course’s close proximity to Last Chance Creek and the placer gold mining dredges that changed the creek to a subterranean flow near the golf course, according to the resolution.

Stephen Keim, Helena’s mayor from 1972 to 1973, was among those who opposed the name change and said the move would be counterproductive to the goal of increasing revenue for the golf course, the Independent Record reported.

The golf course is managed by the city and is required to support its operations solely through the revenue it generates. This is similar to how the city operates its water and wastewater services, the Independent Record reported.

Bill Roberts arrived in Helena in 1939 to work at what was then known as Last Chance Golf Course, news reports say, after working at other golf courses in Montana. The course here had been established in 1924 and was renamed for him in 1960. News reports credit him with developing the golf course from the rock, weeds and sage he found when he arrived, the Independent Record reported.

Jon Pallister, the golf board’s chairman, spoke in defense of renaming the golf course and said that Roberts’ name “will not be forgotten.” The golf course is a stand-alone business, Pallister said, adding that the board believes the name change is necessary, the Independent Record reported.

Pete Aspenwall also supported a rebranding of the course, noting that there are other golf courses in Helena that are underutilized by golfers, and raising rates at Bill Roberts risks deterring golfers, the Independent Record reported.

And there is a stigma attached to golf courses with the word municipal in their names, Aspenwall said.

Ed McHugh, however, took issue with the proposed name and said, “There is no Hidden Creek in Helena.”

Another of those who spoke suggested renaming the road into the golf course in Roberts’ honor. There was also support for a plaque to honor him in the putting area, the Independent Record reported.

The bid to give the course a new name comes as a result of a business plan created in 2009 by the golf board. The projected $7,000 cost to change the name and develop a logo, colors and a marketing strategy would be paid for through the golf course’s annual budget, the Independent Record reported.

The golf course ended fiscal years 2011 and 2012 with more than $23,000 above expenses. Expenses were close to $1.2 million in 2011, while they topped that mark slightly in 2012, the Independent Record reported.

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