Golfers fear loss of Mif money
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 And she said she’s concerned the grant offer could be withdrawn if the city doesn’t agree to let the Junior Golf Association take over the course soon.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.