GOLF

Santa Rosa Hopes New Operator Can Help Transform Bennett Valley Golf Course

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Company officials have already begun meeting with various Santa Rosa groups to initiate youth programs and expand access for older residents, Harker said.

A program envisioned by the company would combine golf instruction with professional training. The company would transport youngsters to the course to teach them how to play golf and train them in various course jobs that they could do after school.

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Touchstone plans to hold other types of events, such as races and lunches, to bring people to the site as well, he said.

The city is working on a long-term plan for the course

Beyond day-to-day operations, the city will now start looking at how to revitalize the course and pay for improvements.

Touchstone has committed $50,000 for landscaping at the entrance to the golf course.

Other minor upgrades are planned for the first year, including work on the sand traps, tree thinning, and restaurant.

But in the long run, millions of improvements are needed across the entire facility. One of the highest priorities is the replacement of the 50-year-old irrigation system and the installation of a drainage system to prevent water from accumulating on the links, which is estimated at 4.4 millions of dollars.

Earlier this year, a consultant recommended completing a site-wide master plan and creating a list of priority projects. Touchstone said some of the work could be done in-house.

The city must now figure out how to pay for the upgrades.

The consultant recommended funding the work through an investment from the general fund, a bond, or using golf course revenue, a move that could force the city to raise green fees.

As a municipal enterprise, the golf course is expected to be self-sustaining, meaning that revenue from the course should pay for operations and capital projects.

The annual rounds played at the course generate revenue, but the course’s profitability is hampered by an annual payment of $458,500 needed to pay off approximately $4 million in debt from a 2005 clubhouse renovation. plans to repay the debt by 2030.

Debt forced the city to use reserve funds and general fund dollars to operate the course and pay off debts, leaving less money for improvements.

City officials hope the new management contract will be more lucrative for Santa Rosa.

The city will receive all course revenue and is responsible for all operating expenses under the new management contract. Under the previous contract, revenue was not enough to cover costs, said assistant parks director Jen Santos.

Revenue from the course is also expected to see an uptick as the restaurant reopens after two years, Santos said.

Santos said the city is anticipating a loss in the first year due to transfer costs from operations, minor improvements and debt payments, but the course is expected to perform in the green in future years and excess funds can be used. allocated to capital improvements.

City staff will return to council later this year with an update on yard revenues and expenses, a list of recommended capital projects and funding options.

Golfers have ‘high hopes’

Capuano, who has played Bennett Valley since he was a child in the early 1990s, described the course as his second home.

He got involved in the golf club about 16 years ago. Club members represent most of the rounds played at Bennett Valley, he said. Their annual membership fluctuates from around 250 to 350 members.

Capuano fears that without improvements, discussions about redesigning the course will die out.

The refurbishment of the pro shop and restaurant has made the course an ideal venue, but at a cost. If the course was debt-free, that money could be used for deferred maintenance and the course would be profitable, he said.

“(The contract) is certainly a good step in the right direction but I have the feeling that the subject will never be closed,” he said. “But I have high hopes for this contract.”

Dan Galvin is more optimistic.

Galvin, whose father led a committee in the 1960s that led to the creation of the course and was one of the pro shop’s first employees as a high school student, said Touchstone will bring stability during.

It was upsetting that the city was considering redeveloping the Bennett Valley, but he was glad elected officials listened to the thousands of residents who fought to save the course, he said.

He hopes the discussion will stop for good.

“Hopefully the course will be preserved for good and any idea of ​​selling or redeveloping part or all of it will fade away,” he said.

You can reach editor Paulina Pineda at 707-521-5268 or paulina.pineda@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @paulinapineda22.

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