Council to consider keeping Kemper
Interim City Manager Ann Marie Gallant will ask the City Council to sign off on negotiations with Kemper Sports Management to enter a long-term contract to manage the Chuck Corica Golf Complex. But golf boosters are crying foul over Kemper’s proposal to immediately shutter the Mif Albright nine-hole course and set up two new, nine-hole courses on the existing Jack Clark.
Gallant says the council should choose Kemper’s proposal over another by Bellows Golf Management, whose executives said they’d seek to maintain two, 18-hole courses at the complex and that they’d be willing to help stakeholders keep the existing Mif Albright short course open. They said they’d also be willing to allow Tom Geneakos to keep running Jim’s on the Course, while Kemper would seek to buy Geneakos out of his restaurant concession at the complex, which runs through 2011 with an option for a five-year extension.
Kemper would seek to leave the Earl Fry course in place and to split the Jack Clark course into a regulation nine-hole course and an executive Par 3 course for the short term, and to assume major renovations in the future. The company would seek to use money from the city’s golf enterprise fund to do the work.
Kemper’s proposal laid out the company’s bona fides for being able to do the long-term work, showcasing major course renovations it has managed in the past. But it did not specifically spell out when or how major renovations at Chuck Corica might be done.
Bellows, which had also offered a proposal to run the course short-term in 2008, would partner with Landscapes Unlimited in order to effect long-term upgrades (the partnership is called Landscapes Golf Group). Landscapes Unlimited has done more than 800 golf course construction and renovation projects, Bellows’ proposal says.
Golfers were angry about the proposal to close the Mif. They believed they would be given the opportunity tonight to present a plan for keeping the short course open under the direction of Alameda Junior Golf. The council had said at its February 17 meeting that it expected the Mif proposal to be discussed tonight in the context of running the entire golf complex.
“KemperSports’s proposal to permanently close the Mif Albright Par 3 golf course demonstrates their total disregard for Alameda’s junior golfers,” said Joe Van Winkle, who wrote the business plan for the nonprofit’s operation of the course.
The council chose Kemper in November 2008 to run the complex on a temporary basis while city leaders looked for a more permanent solution for operating it, contracting to pay the company $120,000 plus expenses to operate the course for a year. Kemper’s proposal is to sign a 30-year lease to run the complex.
City staff and a consultant, David Sams, selected Kemper based on the company’s experience in running municipal golf courses in California, the soundness of the Chicago-based company’s finances and the company’s ability to provide quality golf services and to make its customers happy, a staff report says. The company is also being considered because it has a strong track record for complying with the obligations of its contracts and for its ability to expand the golf complex’s market, the staff report says.
Kemper, which was founded in the 1970s, operates 85 courses, some of them considered among the best in the country. It holds 33 public agency contracts, including 10 in California, the staff report says. In addition to operating courses and managing a host of big golf events, the company has its own public relations firm.
Tempe, Ariz.-based Bellows is younger and smaller, getting its start in the 1990s and operating 26 courses, seven of which are publicly owned.
A study done by NGF Consulting recommended $11 million in upgrades for the aging complex, which the city can’t afford. City officials have maintained that the complex has been losing money, though golf boosters have disputed that claim. The staff report says that the complex’s losses have slowed since Kemper took over but have not stopped, and that its cash balance could be depleted in 36 months.
If Kemper takes over the course, the city may have to forgo much or all of the $800,000 a year it has received from the complex to pay its bills. The proposals did not lay out how much money the city would be expected to get from the company that operates the complex.
“(N)egotiations will focus on a reasonable City return on receipts, balanced with a required capital commitment by the operator,” the report says.