The city of Springfield has found a new private operator to take over management of Reid Park Golf Course a day before the course closes for the season.
The National Trail Parks and Recreation District will cease running the course today and Reid Park Limited, a local private operator run by Alan Collins and Jim Kincaid, will take over Jan. 15 if approved by city commissioners.
City commissioners decided earlier this year they can no longer pay for golf due to its budget constraints after spending more than $1.1 million subsidizing its courses between 2012 and 2015.
Last year commissioners gave National Trail $150,000 in extra money to cover losses, primarily for golf.
It comes down to finances and setting priorities for the city, Springfield Mayor Warren Copeland said. The city cannot continue to lose money on its courses, he said.
The new partnership eliminates the cost of operating the facility while continuing a quality amenity, Springfield City Manager Jim Bodenmiller said, making it a win-win for the community. The city requested proposals from private operators and received two submissions.
The two-year deal says the operator will cover the cost of any losses and pay the city $200 per month in rent. The golf operation has required a roughly $200,000 annual subsidy for the past few years, Bodenmiller said.
Collins – the son of longtime golf pro El Collins – basically grew up at the golf course. He’s thrilled the city worked with them to make the deal a reality, he said.
“It’s worth it,” Collins said. “I love to play there. I know a lot of people there. A lot of people will be very excited and happy that something like this isn’t going to go away. I understand how people felt at Snyder Park. It’s tough when it’s something you do every day and then it goes away.”
The city won’t have to pay water and sewer because it remains city property, Bodenmiller said.
Currently the property is tax exempt but that could change with a private operator. If it does, the city has agreed to pay up to $50,000 of the property taxes annually for the first two years of the deal and $25,000 each year for the third and fourth years.
The operators will also make a security deposit of $50,000 to lease equipment, Bodenmiller said.
“We’re going to present a really nice product to the community,” Collins said. “We didn’t want to see it go away.
It’s more difficult for municipalities to run golf courses because they have to pay extra expenses private companies don’t, Collins said, such as medical and public retirement benefits.
“Golf doesn’t have giant margins like it used to,” he said. “When you have expenses you don’t need, it makes it hard. That’s why they had to be subsidize.”
Kincaid will serve as the primary golf professional, running the day-to-day operation with a total of four full-time employees, Collins said. The fee and pass structure won’t change for next season, he said, but adjustments could be made in the future.
“For now, we’ll take it as is and give people a chance to settle in,” Collins said.
The decision for the city to end its management of Reid was tough, Copeland said.
“I was personally concerned that it would close because it’s been a great place that I’ve thoroughly enjoyed,” he said.
But as courses across the country have seen, he said the supply far exceeds the demand for playing space.
“Especially public courses like this that don’t serve an elite clientele,” Copeland said.
The solution of partnering with local business owners is a wonderful solution to a difficult problem, the mayor said.
Reid Park Golf Course opened in 1967 and is currently managed for the city by National Trail. The park district closed Snyder Park Golf Course in January 2014 after years of financial struggles there.
The rounds of golf played on city-owned courses has plummeted — a 65 percent drop in the past 17 years. Springfield doesn’t have the money to continue to maintain the two 18-hole courses.
About 32,000 rounds have been played at Reid Park this year, down about 3,500 rounds from the same time a year ago.
Collins is a Springfield attorney and former golf professional while Kincaid is a former National Trail Parks and Recreation District board member and PGA golf professional.
The Reid Park property is valued at about $2.2 million, according to an appraisal completed earlier this year. It includes two, 18-hole courses, service and maintenance facilities and a recreation park with shelter houses, restrooms and woods.
Local golf courses have had trouble attracting younger players, Clark County resident Steve Hockett said. There aren’t as many youth clinics today as there were in the past, he said after golfing Tuesday.
“It hurts,” Hockett said. “You’ve got to do something for the kids. You’ve got to get them interested. They’re going to be the ones who are playing long after we’re gone.”
Local golfer Jim Hulsizer has spent 75 years either playing, working or volunteering at the courses. He was at Reid Park again on Tuesday and said he would have preferred Snyder Park to have stayed open and Reid close.
“It’s a sad state of affairs,” he said. “It didn’t happen overnight. It’s been building for years.”
Springfield resident John Vollmer has played at Reid Park since the day it opened, he said.
“A lot of people had good times here,” Vollmer said.
Some people have moved to other courses, while some have quit playing altogether, he said. The economy has also played a role in golf’s decline, Vollmer said.
“It’s taken its toll on everything,” he said.
Staff Writer Allison Wichie contributed to this report.
By the numbers
$2.2 million: Estimated value of Reid Park Golf Course, according to a real estate appraisal.
$1.1 million: Springfield golf subsidies between 2012 and 2015.
36: Holes at the golf course.
380: Acres at the golf course.
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