Kent aims to make Riverbend Golf Complex profitable

Kent city officials revealed a draft business plan on Tuesday to make the Riverbend Golf Complex profitable starting in 2019 and continuing for years to come.

It’s a major challenge for a city-owned golf complex that loses about $300,000 per year, owes other city funds a debt of about $4 million and needs about $6 million in capital improvements to its 18-hole course, driving range and pro shop.

City leaders will use the $10.5 million from the sale of the par 3 golf course property earlier this year to a developer to pay off the debt and pay for the improvements over the next few years. Auburn-based FNW, Inc./Landmark Development Group plans to build Marquee on Meeker, a mixed-use project with nearly 500 apartments where the par 3 course now sits along West Meeker Street near the Green River.

“We are looking at ways to maximize our dollars and make sure the money from the property (sale) is well spent,” Council President Bill Boyce said. “We want to make sure the golf course is able to sustain itself.”

Parks Director Julie Parascondola and Pete Petersen, superintendent of golf operations at Riverbend, worked with Leon Younger, president of Indiana-based Pros Consulting, over the last five months to come up with the business plan. The city paid the consultant about $60,000 for the work.

The top recommendations in the plan include:

• Remodel the clubhouse to enhance the golfer experience to include an updated and redesigned restaurant/grill, improve restrooms, and enhance retail space, offices and general grounds surrounding the clubhouse.

Two recent restaurants failed to survive at Riverbend and the space remains empty. Parascondola said the goal is to get a new restaurant open in March. A survey of golfers showed they prefer a sports bar over any other type of restaurant. The plan counts on a portion of the profits from the restaurant to help boost overall revenue. Younger said restaurants at similar courses can add as much as $120,000 per year to the bottom line.

• Update the driving range facility by adding additional hitting stalls, enhance the hitting surfaces, enhance the facility by updating the hitting areas, retail shop, food service and ball washer equipment.

This is one of the largest capital investments, with costs of more than $3 million to improve the driving range, with additions and renovations. The plan calls for $750,o00 to install 14 more stalls. Younger said each stall can produce as much as $10,000 in revenue per year, bringing in about $140,000 each year. The proposal also proposes adding alcohol sales at the driving range.

• Change the administrative costs from $430,000 a year to $300,000 in 2018-2020. This includes reducing full-time and part-time staff to lower costs, a plan expected to be determined later this year.

Riverbend spends much of that $430,000 on city staff, including legal, human resources and information technology. The plan asks staff to look for ways to reduce those costs.

City leaders also want to establish a $500,000 cash reserve fund with proceeds from the par 3 property sale to help cover unexpected expenses.

The proposal shows Riverbend’s projected revenue exceeding expenses starting in 2019 with $2.76 million in revenue and $2.68 million in expenses. The revenue projections increase each year through 2023 under the plan.

Councilman Jim Berrios came away impressed with the proposal.

“It’s important to have someone like Leon (the consultant) to come in and give that perspective,” Berrios said. “Some people say why are you spending money on that – it’s money well spent no question in my mind because we better understand the challenges and more importantly what we need to do to move ahead. I’m very encouraged. I think you have done a great job.”