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Golfers fear loss of Mif money

Submitted by on 1, August 6, 2010 – 5:00 am13 Comments

Local golfers are worried that a promised $250,000 grant for the Mif Albright par-3 course could disappear if the city doesn’t commit to allowing a nonprofit to fix up the course soon. And they’re concerned city staff is looking to close the course, despite a council directive to negotiate to keep it open.

A representative from the Wadsworth Golf Charities Foundation wrote the city on June 25 to say they intend to commit $250,000 in grant funds plus services to the course, provided the city agrees to spend $100,000 of its own money to help spruce it up. They asked city officials to accept their offer by August. But the city wrote back on July 6 saying they would not be able to do so.

City officials will have their first face-to-face negotiations with KemperSports, the company they selected to manage the Chuck Corica Golf Complex, at the end of August, four and a half months after the council selected them to run the complex on a long-term basis. And they cited the complexity of the negotiations, and their long-term impact on the complex’s future, as reasons for the delay.

“These negotiations are very complex and involved since they will shape the operation of the facility for years to come. Given the intricate nature of both agreements and a very crowded City Council Agenda over the next couple of months, coupled with no City Council meetings in the month of August, we will not be able to respond to your offer by August,” Recreation and Parks Director Dale Lillard wrote to Wadsworth president Leon McNair. “We will continue the process, but unfortunately see no resolution until later in the fall.”

City officials also asked Kemper to run the numbers on five fresh configurations for the course, including scenarios where the Mif was closed.

Golf Commission president Jane Sullwold called the negotiating delay “irresponsible.” And she said she’s concerned the grant offer could be withdrawn if the city doesn’t agree to let the Junior Golf Association take over the course soon.

“I am concerned that if the city delays this, we could lose this opportunity,” Sullwold said.

Sullwold and Joe VanWinkle, who drew up the business plan to run the Mif, said Wadsworth is looking to establish a West Coast presence, and that they have also visited courses in Palo Alto and San Jose. And they’re wondering why the city would balk at spending $100,000 on fixing up the Mif when reconfiguring the existing, 18-hole Jack Clark course to include a nine-hole course, by Kemper’s estimates, would cost $1 million.

“We have given them everything they’ve asked for,” said VanWinkle. He said he’s hopeful golf will be on the council’s agenda in September.

In addition to selecting Kemper as long-term operator for the complex, the council directed city staff to negotiate with the Alameda Junior Golf Association to take over the Mif Albright course. City staff have raised concerns about the golf association’s business plan, though Wadsworth’s president, McNair, praised it in his letter as a “sound and realistic business plan for operating the Mif.”

Interim City Manager Ann Marie Gallant told the council on March 16 that she believed business terms could be hammered out with Kemper in 90 to 120 days, and that legal documents could be drafted 90 days after the council’s approval of the business terms. She had said she’d be back to the council in July.

Lillard, who admitted that this is his first time negotiating a deal like this, said the city asked Kemper for scenarios that included the Mif’s closure so they wouldn’t have to go back for it if things don’t work out.

“Nothing is preferred at this point. They’re still responding and we’re still going through the information they’re giving us,” said Lillard. “We’re hopeful we can reach an agreement that turns out best for the golf complex and the city.”

Lillard said the Wadsworth Foundation said they were okay with the delays as long as the city is willing to work with them. McNair couldn’t be reached for comment.

The council decided to hire a private company to manage the complex because they believe a private outfit could run it more efficiently than the city does. Kemper has been running the 45-hole course on an interim basis since January 2009.

The city closed the Mif Albright course in November 2008 but reopened it on a trial basis in the spring of 2009, and it remains open.

13 Comments »

  • Robert Sullwold says:

    “Nothing is preferred at this point”???

    Perhaps Mr. Lillard, 20% of whose salary and benefits are paid out of Golf Complex revenue, should consult the minutes of the March 16 City Council meeting:

    “Councilmember Matarrese moved approval of negotiating with both parties with the understanding that components are needed for a par 3, driving range, and two 18-hole championship courses; stated the starting point would be two 18-hole courses and looking for financial feasibility; direction is to come back with a business term sheet based on the starting point, incorporating the non-profit aspect for operating the par 3 and working backwards from there.

    Vice Mayor deHaan seconded the motion with the modification that the Mif Albright course portion not be addressed after the fact.

    Under discussion, Councilmember Matarrese stated the motion started with the need for a par 3 course.

    Vice Mayor deHaan stated that he understands Councilmember Matarrese’s motion.

    On the call for the question, the motion carried by the following voice vote: Ayes: Councilmembers deHaan, Gilmore, Matarrese, and Mayor Johnson – 4. Abstentions: Councilmember Tam – 1.”

  • Mike McMahon says:

    At the Chamber mixer last week, the City Manager indicated that the Wadsworth Foundation was holding the grant and was willing to wait until negotiations with Kemper Sports to take place.

  • Jon Spangler says:

    My inclination is to trust the Interim City Manager to watch out for the golfers using Mif Albright just about as much as I trusted her to be impartial and fair re: Suncal and to negotiate in good faith with our former master developer. The ICM seems to have a history of saying one thing and doing another, but always looking out for herself (and her own sometimes-hidden agenda) first.

    (In other words, watch out, golfers!)

  • ct says:

    Why would the City spend $1 million with KemperSports to keep the Mif Albright golf course open when they can do the same for $100,000 with a nonprofit? Perhaps this offers a clue: “City officials also asked Kemper to run the numbers on five fresh configurations for the course, including scenarios where the Mif was closed.”

    A high-paid, out-of-town golf consultant hired by the City apparently believes that a great sum of money will be necessary to operate the Mif, whereas volunteers with the nonprofit Alameda Junior Golf Association produced a business plan so smart that a golf foundation is willing to grant $250,000 toward their effort if the City can put up $100,000. Lauren Do’s blog posting on this aspect of the story (laurendo.wordpress.com/2010/06/22/tee-time/) provides a very interesting read.

  • Chuck Sabbatini says:

    Conerning your Mif article, I was just on the Northern California Golf Association website. They have a section called point
    Leaders for junior tournaments. 4 of the top 25 junior girls play on the Alameda High Golf Team. Where didnthey learn
    To play golf, the Mif. And our illustrious mayor and council wants to close the . The council should
    Be jumping on this and using it to promote the Mif

  • elliottg says:

    I’m confused. The voters of Alameda ran 6 to 1 against SunCal, but the regular commentors on this site run 2 to 1 in favor.

  • elliottg says:

    Not confused at all Michele. The question was whether Mike McMahon’s comment was reliable. Since noone was questioning the validity of his report, the question became one of whether the ICM was being honest. If the ICM was being honest and was in contact with the Wadsworth Foundation then the article is nothing really. If the ICM misrepresented herself and her interaction with Wadsworth then the article has some basis. Mr. Spangler jumped in to make that point. Since I don’t see anything wrong with how the ICM handled SunCal, I see nothing to indicate she would lie to Mike McMahon. If she wasn’t lying then there is no issue and the article is a throwaway at best and stirring the pot at worst. Why don’t you call Wadsworth and find out which?

  • elliottg says:

    Michele,

    A little perspective here, perhaps you want to explain the relevance of Mr. Spangler’s comment that he doesn’t believe the ICM because of the SunCal negotiations? Have you called the ICM’s office? Is the grant in danger or not or is posing the question rather than answering it the point of the article.

    • elliottg,

      I spoke with Deputy City Manager Lisa Goldman, who said Dale Lillard – who I quoted in the story – was the correct city official to talk with regarding the city’s end of the golf issue. As far as the meaning Mr. Spangler’s comment, you will have to ask him.

  • elliottg says:

    You’re right. Here’s the quote I missed, “Lillard said the Wadsworth Foundation said they were okay with the delays as long as the city is willing to work with them.” Sorry I was distracted by all the predictions of doom and gloom that lead the article; predictions that appear to be the result of worry and frustration more than actual fact.

  • ct says:

    Another interesting observation from Lauren Do (laurendo.wordpress.com/2010/08/09/why-you-want-to-give-me-a-run-around/): As Mr Sullwold notes above, on March 16 the City Council requested the ICM to negotiate “with both parties … incorporating the nonprofit aspect for operating the par 3 and working backwards from there.” The ICM ignored the Council’s specific direction by choosing to negotiate with KemperSports first and not to respond to the Wadsworth foundation’s $250,000 offer until after the conclusion of those negotiations with Kemper later in the fall. Another example of the ICM doing whatever she likes with absolutely no oversight and no accountability.

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