Golfers play the 18-hole Riverbend course in Kent. City officials plan major improvements at the course over the next two years. FILE PHOTO

Golfers play the 18-hole Riverbend course in Kent. City officials plan major improvements at the course over the next two years. FILE PHOTO

City of Kent to begin renovations at Riverbend Golf Complex

Driving range expansion first step with proceeds from par 3 property sale

The city of Kent will soon start spending proceeds from the sale of its Riverbend par 3 golf course property to expand and renovate the driving range as well as a few projects to improve the 18-hole course.

Kent will spend about $2.2 million on the driving range to add 14 stalls and renovate the rest of the facility in an effort to bring more revenue to the city.

“There has been a lot of concern by the public about whether revenue will get lost in the general fund,” said City Parks Director Julie Parascondola at the City Council’s Parks and Human Services Committee meeting on May 17. “We have paid some of the closing costs, but the majority will go right back in to the course. People will see improvements.”

The committee voted 3-0 to approve the expenditures. The full council will consider the motion on its consent calendar at the June 5 meeting, which means they will vote on it and several other measures with no discussion.

The city last year sold the par 3 course along West Meeker Street for $10.5 million to Auburn-based FNW, Inc.,/Landmark Development Group for a mixed-use project to include about 500 apartments. Work started this spring on the Marquee at Meeker project, across the street from the 18-hole course.

Proceeds from the sale will eliminate Kent’s $4 million loan from other city funds, establish cash reserves of $500,000 for the Riverbend Golf Complex and provide about $6 million in capital reinvestment. The golf complex loses about $300,000 per year, but city officials hope the improvements will help the complex make money in 2019.

The payments to the city are being done in two phases by the developer. The city will pay $2.3 million toward the debt with the first proceeds and put $292,683 toward the new $500,000 cash reserve. That leaves $3.2 million for capital improvements to be spent on:

• $2.2 million: Driving range expansion, remodel

• $40,000: Driving range ball machine (already replaced, machine distributes balls to golfers)

• $750,000: New maintenance equipment replacement (10 mowers for greens, fairway and tees, sprayer, etc.)

• $100,000: 18-hole clubhouse expansion, remodel, restroom renovation

• $40,000: 18-hole course improvements (restroom renovation)

• $123,000: Unallocated balance

Pete Petersen, city superintendent of golf operations, explained to the council committee the plan to upgrade the driving range.

“The driving range will expand to the east,” Petersen said. “We also will remodel the existing area, redoing three-quarters of the building, with a meeting room and new restrooms. And we will redo the entrance with just one counter.”

The work on the driving range will be done in phases so the city won’t have to close it, and is expected to be completed by next summer, Parascondola said in an email.

When phase two kicks in next year, the city plans to spend funds to improve golf course drainage and upgrade greens and tees. Parascondola said they wanted to focus on revenue-producing improvements during the first phase, mainly the driving range and expansion of the pro shop to sell more merchandise.

Restaurant update

City staff is working to bring in a new restaurant at Riverbend and has received a proposal from the operators of Hackers Bar and Grill at the Madrona Links Golf Course in Gig Harbor. Ryan and Bob Kelly operate Hackers and hope to open a similar sports bar at Riverbend.

“They have a proven history at the course in Gig Harbor,” Parascondola said.

Hackers opened in 2014 at Madrona, a public course that opened in the late 1970s.

“We don’t know a time frame for the restaurant,” Parascondola said. “It depends on how long it takes for licensing. The lease agreement will come before the council. We will work with them (the owners) on timing. We are just starting our conversations.”

The city has struggled to find a restaurant that can stay in business at Riverbend. The Scotch and Vine closed last year after less than a year in the business when it failed to pay rent. Mick Kelly’s Irish Pub and Restaurant closed in June 2015 after a five-year run. The city terminated that lease because the restaurant owed about $78,000 to the city in delinquent lease and utility payments.

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