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City of Kent open house July 15 about possible sale of Riverbend Par 3 golf course

Jim Freitag, of Kent, practices a shot at the putting green at the Riverbend Golf Complex par 3, nine-hole course. Kent city officials are considering selling the course and keeping just the 18-hole course. - Kent Reporter, file photo
Jim Freitag, of Kent, practices a shot at the putting green at the Riverbend Golf Complex par 3, nine-hole course. Kent city officials are considering selling the course and keeping just the 18-hole course.
— image credit: Kent Reporter, file photo

Kent residents can give their opinion at an open house as the city determines whether or not to sell its Par 3 golf course at the Riverbend Golf Complex.

The open house is from 6-9 p.m. Monday, July 15 at the Par 3 Club House, 2030 W. Meeker St.

A 20-acre component of the golf complex, the city is exploring the sale of the Par 3 as a way to put the facility on stable financial footing, as well as reinvest in the 24-year old facility, which also includes an 18-hole course, driving range, retail shop and restaurant, according to a city media release.

The city operates the golf complex with the use of enterprise funds, meaning it is a self-supporting facility and not part of the city’s general fund.

Jeff Watling, city Parks, Recreation and Community Services director, said he’s been tasked with addressing some challenges, the first being to put the golf complex fund on a sustainable path.

“Since the city took ownership of the complex in 2000, numerous economic and weather cycles have negatively impacted the golf fund, forcing the need for loans to cover shortfalls," Watling said. "But the most recent recession really underscored the necessity of finding a long-term solution.”

The complex carries a $2.25 million debt which is owed to an inter-fund loan, money the city borrowed from its water and fleet funds to help pay off the bond for the golf complex.

“The second factor is the course’s 24-year age and a lack of money to make necessary upgrades," Watling said. "New synthetic turf is needed at the driving range, as well as upgrades to the existing irrigation system, a new well for irrigation and new maintenance equipment at the 18-hole course.

“Some in the community have suggested the city outsource the whole operation as a cost-saving measure. We’ve looked into it, but a different operator wouldn’t make the golf complex fund healthy. And it wouldn’t solve the challenges of improving the golf complex or guarantee reinvestment in the facility."

Pete Petersen, golf operations superintendent, said rounds at the Par 3 course are down more than 28 percent over the last 10 years.

“Last year, there were 28,393 rounds played, a big drop from the 39,534 rounds played in 2004," Petersen said.

Petersen said the golf industry has changed in the last five years.

“Since 2008, 30 percent of the nine-hole and par 3 courses across the country have closed," he said. "Most core golfers want the 18-hole experience.”

Watling says the idea to sell was shared with members from a variety of golf leagues that use Riverbend’s facilities.

“I know there’s some disappointment we’re even considering the possibility," Watling said. "It’s really disappointing to both Pete and I, too. From disappointment comes innovating thinking. That’s what we want to hear at these open houses. We need to hear how the public suggests we solve the challenges."

Interested parties unable to attend the open house are encouraged to provide feedback online at KentWA.gov/par3survey.

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