The city of Kent hopes to turn its Riverbend Golf Complex into a moneymaker. FILE PHOTO

The city of Kent hopes to turn its Riverbend Golf Complex into a moneymaker. FILE PHOTO

City of Kent’s Riverbend Golf Complex reduces financial losses in 2018

Facility projected to make small profit in 2019

With reduced expenses from selling the par 3 golf course, the city of Kent’s Riverbend Golf Complex cut its loss in 2018 to $65,572 after averaging annual losses of around $300,000 per year.

Big changes continue at the 18-hole course, clubhouse and driving range after the city sold the former par 3 golf course for $10.5 million in 2017 to Auburn-based FNW, Inc./Landmark Development Group, which is building the Marquee on Meeker mixed-use project that includes nearly 500 apartments along West Meeker Street, across from Riverbend.

The city will use $4 million from that sale to pay off Riverbend debt and invest the other $6 million in improvements to the 18-hole course, clubhouse and driving range.

Riverbend had a loss of $65,572 in 2018 with expenses of $2.71 million and revenue of $2.57 million, according to city documents. The facility had a loss of $300,873 in 2017 when the par 3 course was still operating.

“One of the largest reductions in expense is directly attributed to the closure of the par 3 golf course which resulted in the reduction of pro shop staff, the reduction of 1.5 FTE (full-time employees) on the maintenance operations for the golf complex, as well as the reduction in overhead costs to operate the par 3 clubhouse building,” said Pete Petersen, golf complex manager, in a Wednesday email.

Petersen and Parks Director Julie Parascondola met with Leon Younger, president of Indiana-based Pros Consulting, in 2017 to come up with a new business plan for 2018 to 2023.

With that plan in hand, Petersen said a slight reduction in staffing at the 18-hole course as well as the purchase of new maintenance equipment further reduced costs in 2018.

The business plan also expected rent revenue from a new restaurant at Riverbend, but no restaurant has operated at the facility since March 2017. Half Lion Brewery plans to open a restaurant/sports bar in June that could boost revenue even higher. The business plan predicts a profit of about $8,000 for the golf complex in 2019 (after projecting a loss of $139,505 in 2018). The par 3 course didn’t actually close until last April, so more savings are expected this year with those operational costs gone.

“We met or exceeded the financial goals,” Petersen said.

Riverbend spent $704,504 on new maintenance equipment to replace items that were 18 years old, Petersen said. The new equipment included 10 mowers (two each for the greens, tees, fairways, small rough and large rough).

About $100,000 will be spent this year to double the size of the pro shop.

The city has paid off about $2.3 million of the Riverbend debt (an inter-fund loan the city borrowed from its water and fleet funds to pay off the bond for the golf complex) with the developer’s payment for phase I of the Marquee on Meeker project. The second payment will be made when phase II begins.

Riverbend also expects a revenue boost after the city makes an estimated $2.2 million improvement to the driving range. Crews will install about 13 or 14 new stalls and renovate the 32 existing stalls. That work could start in the fall and be done in 2020.

“I’m so, so excited about this,” Boyce said after a presentation by Petersen at the Tuesday night City Council workshop. “Those of us on the council who voted to close the par 3 still have scars on our backs. People were very, very upset with the par 3 going away. But I give credit to the council to see the vision going forward. …This council made a bold decision.”

Riverbend put new tees on the 18-hole course to try to accommodate golfers who played the par 3 course. The tees are closer to the holes for a shorter game. Petersen said the senior men’s league on Tuesday mornings had only about 20 players competing on the forward tees initially but now more than 40 golfers show up to play.

“I was really hanging on the part about the Tee It Forward and the senior group because those were the ones the most vocal and impacted by the par 3 closure, but it really sounds positive what’s going on,” Councilman Dennis Higgins said to Petersen. “I’m sure it wouldn’t be a uniformly happy conversation if I were to go ask a couple of those guys in particular, but it sounds like it’s going well.”

Petersen responded that the response from the senior golfers has gone well and they are enjoying it.

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