Asheville – Over 50 people attended the September 1 community meeting at Dr. Wesley Grant Sr. Southside Community Center to meet the new operators of the historic Asheville Municipal Golf Course, Peter DeJack and Michael Bennett, where there were plenty of questions and rounds of welcome applause.
A 10-year era is drawing to a close in the beloved Mooney as operators change, a new phase of management that golfers hope will bring much-needed improvements to the course, which has been allowed to “weak” over several years, according to players. golf.
On October 1, Commonwealth Golf Partners II – Asheville LLC will take over the course’s operations in a seven-year license and management agreement, a new partnership model with the city, which assumed ownership of the course in 2006.
Asheville City Council approved the agreement on August 23.
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Although it carries greater financial risk for the City, the agreement allows the City to dictate course maintenance levels and retain control over the maximum allowed environment fees and pass holders rates, According to the Working Group Report on the Operator Agreement.
In a nearly two-hour, quick Q&A on September 1, concerns about the current state of the course were overwhelming — from maintenance to a contentious relationship with current operator, Bob Golf, and preservation of the course’s history.
But the meeting ended with several rounds of applause, as many dedicated golfers were pleased to see the promise of change on the course.
Matthew Pacoat Jr. was in the audience. He currently organizes the Skyview Golf Championship on the course, the longest-running professional tournament owned and operated by lions in the country.
He took charge of the tournament in 2015, but has been involved in it since its inception in 1960, when he was tasked with laying the signs and managing the main scoreboard for the inaugural year.
He had been advocating a change of course for years as he watched it quickly slip into disrepair, and he said the meeting that night was the culmination of months of effort.
Like many golfers, Mooney expressed frustration with the current operators.
“It got to the point, in the last three years, that Bob (Golf) has taken himself out of his tack or planning what kind of repairs need to be done. (They) have left the golf course weakening as it is,” Backwat said.
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According to the city, its 10-year contract with Sarasota-based Pope Golf, which began October 1, 2012, and ends September 30, left the city facing $324,934 in outstanding rental payments.
“Throughout the life of Pope Golf’s lease, the cycle has steadily deteriorated to the point that operators are not interested in leasing the property without a significant commitment to renovation from the city,” the task force’s report said.
Litigation was threatened in a June 29 letter from the city attorney general’s office to Keith Pope, CEO of Pope Golf.
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There has been no change in the situation with Bob Golf’s discussions as of late August, Chris Curll, director of the city’s community and regional recreational facilities, said on Sept.
“I personally feel we would be able to resolve the issue without a suit, but that certainly hasn’t been decided because there are still a lot of details to be discussed before anything is finalised,” Curll said.
The first public golf course in North Carolina and the first golf course to be incorporated in the Southeast, was designed by golf Hall of Fame architect Donald Ross and opened to play in 1927.
Although the course is beloved by many Asheville golfers, they say the course has suffered significant damage, with weeds and bare spots infesting most of the fairway, and necessary stormwater repairs resulting in sewer holes and drainage problems.
Who are the Commonwealth Golf Partners?
Commonwealth Golf Partners II – Asheville is a partnership between Dejak and Bennett, who also operate their golf course management companies independently of the other.
They were selected after the city issued an application for qualifications in February, which led to responses from 12 companies for various types of operations agreements.
Dejak is based in the golf hotspot Pinehurst and has more than 20 years of experience building, renovating and managing golf courses in the Mid-Atlantic, according to a city press release Aug. 23. He is a member of American Golf Course Supervisors Associationand owner Signature Golf Construction & Maintenance.
Dejak will handle a lot of the construction and maintenance aspects of the course. He said that the story of al-Dora and its history is clear when going out on al-Khidr, and this is part of the reason why he and Bennett wanted him to take over.
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“We will try to maintain the same flavor of the Donald Ross golf course, but we are trying to create some improvements that will help with playability, upkeep and upkeep of the golf course,” said Dejak.
One of the few Donald Ross courses left without major renovations, Bennett said, it was that novelty and Asheville’s reputation as a tourist destination that drew them to the property.
Bennett is a professional PGA professional and president The National Association of Mid-Atlantic Golf Course Owners.
Prior to the formation of the Commonwealth, Bennett was vice president of a large golf management company with 25 properties on the East Coast, and now runs Commonwealth Golf Asset Management, based in Williamsburg, Virginia.
“His experience working in tourist-led golf markets such as Myrtle Beach and Williamsburg, VA will be beneficial in Asheville as approximately 55% of players in MONEY hail from outside the market,” the statement read.
The initial term of the agreement is seven years, with the option to renew for an additional three years.
Curl said the goal is to have no closures during the transition period. The course has three full-time and 21 part-time employees. Whoever wants to stay will stay.
The goals for the first day, Dejak said, are simple: “Clean up the place.”
“It’s up to us now,” he said. “And we will do that.”
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New contract details
Instead of a lease agreement like the one the city had with Pope Golf, the licensing and management agreement gives the city more control and allows it to set operating standards to ensure “quality maintenance practices to meet community expectations,” according to a task force report.
Curl said the new model “puts everyone’s share of the game in,” a compromise between full control of the city and a rental agreement.
Under the agreement, the Commonwealth will pay $1 a year to license the right to use the course, said Curl, who will run and manage it. The Commonwealth will implement capital projects on behalf of the city, charging a 4% management fee on capital projects over $25,000.
In the event of a quarterly loss, the city will be responsible for 65% of the losses and the Commonwealth for 35%.
In the case of a quarterly profit, the Commonwealth would earn 100% of the first $5,000 and then 55% of the remaining profits, while the City would get 45% of all profits after the first $5,000.
The cycle is expected to require operational support in the first two fiscal years due to revenue loss associated with periodic shutdowns required to complete capital projects.
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In the third year and beyond, Curl said he expects to turn a profit, generating between $100,000 and $200,000 in revenue annually, with most of the city’s revenue reinvested in the course.
“Hopefully we’ll never get into a situation like this in the future,” Corl said of the current state of the course.
The city is embarking on a $3.5 million project to start capital improvements and is seeking funding from the Buncombe County Tourism Development Authority, among other sources.
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The requested funding will cover stormwater infrastructure, water harvesting, tee box upgrades, and improvements to green traps and sand traps.
In its capital improvement plan for fiscal year 2023, the city set aside $1.1 million for cycle improvement, the only guaranteed funding for the projects.
Planned capital projects for the course include rainwater treatment and irrigation, greens and bunker updates, lawn replanting on the driveway, tree removal, loosening and replacement, camper track repair, installation of historic markers, and clubhouse refreshments.
Curl said work on the bunker, clearing trees and wagon tracks could begin this winter, but he doesn’t expect significant improvements in rainwater until fall 2023.
Curll said that with the new operators, prices will rise slightly, but the course will remain the last “affordable” public fee cycle in Asheville and the least expensive in the county.
Curl said the price changes won’t take effect until after the end of this year, if not a few months until 2023.
He wants the new operators to have time to “stand down” without changing existing programmes, rates and hours, and with time to start improving the course.
“We want to make sure the price is fair for the quality of play you get,” Curl said.
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Prices vary depending on playing time, cart usage and number of holes played, but currently the maximum price on a weekday with cart is $38 and $43 on weekends.
Under the new rates, play in the cart during weekdays ranges from $45 – $40 for a city resident – and $49 on the weekend – $45 for a city resident.
The value of a single season ticket will increase from $1,150 to $1,450. City residents will pay $1,250.
Corl said the new rates don’t vary greatly but do include special rates for city residents, who are not currently receiving any kind of discount or special rates.
He said Bob has the ability to suggest new rates annually but hasn’t done so since 2020, to the best of his knowledge.
The new rates will be the same structure as they are now – the “approved cap” rate by the city – which the Commonwealth can adjust at its discretion to help fill tee times.
A new facility management fee of $1 will be charged on all non-annual pass holder green fees. This fee will be deposited directly into the capital account for future capital projects in the cycle.
According to the city, the average course is 41,600 starts per year, 20% of which are initiated by Annual Pass holders.
Sarah Honosky is the city government reporter for the Asheville Citizen Times, part of the USA TODAY Network. news tips? Email email@example.com or send a message on Twitter at @slhonosky.