The city of Tucson has made its selection whom it will hire to turn around the city’s struggling golf courses.
OB Sports Golf Management was picked by a review panel to run the city’s five municipal golf courses. The company now will enter into negotiations with the city to hash out specifics before a final contract is signed.
Under the selection process approved by the City Council, no further council action is required.
If a contract is finalized, the Scottsdale-based company, which operates 45 courses nationwide , including 17 in Arizona, will assume control of day-to-day golf operations with the city retaining ownership of the courses.
In return for managing the courses, OB Sports is seeking a fee of $240,000 a year, with an annual incentive of 5 percent of the increase of total golf revenues above what they are now .
The company is looking at offering positions to the golf program’s 20 full-time employees and 98 part-time and on-call employees. For the 20 full-time employees, that would mean giving up their civil service protections.
City Manager Richard Miranda said the city is looking to find a place for workers who prefer to remain with the city.
“There’s no guarantee, but we’re doing our best to find them positions within the city of Tucson organization,” Miranda said.
OB Sports wrote in its proposal that while it plans on reviewing staffing levels, it anticipates most of the current employees will be interested in continuing working at the courses.
Provided no one files a protest, city officials expect a contract to be finalized around the second week of December.
Miranda said he hopes the company can assume the reins at the beginning of next year to take advantage of the peak golf months in Tucson.
The company expects to make strides early on.
Based on its model, OB Sports projects it can increase the number of rounds played at city courses from around 180,000 to 189,823 in the first year . Those numbers climb to 205,471 rounds played by 2018.
Average green and cart fees are estimated to be $25.90 in 2014 and climb to $26.96 by 2018 under OB Sports.
The city’s fees have ranged from $23.60 to $26.39 over the last decade.
In all, the company expects to have a profit of around $713,000 in 2018.
Paying for itself
A contract could mark the end to an 18-month process on how the city could turn around golf’s fortunes.
Last fall, the City Council voted to close Fred Enke and transform El Rio into a hybrid park/golf course as a way to alleviate city golf’s approximately $8 million deficit.
Before any of those things could happen, the city committed itself to first seeing if an outside company could lift city golf out of the red.
Many city officials were surprised that 15 golf management companies applied when the city opened bidding last winter.
The city narrowed the field to seven last summer.
Councilwomen Regina Romero, who spearheaded the golf discussion, said she hopes golf’s money problems can be solved.
“The city manager has very clear direction from mayor and council to have the golf enterprise fund pay for itself,” Romero said. “I am hopeful that his recommendation on outsourcing management gets us there very soon.”
Miranda said he has every intention of meeting the council’s goals.