The Riverbend Golf Complex in Kent along West Meeker Street. COURTESY PHOTO, City of Kent

The Riverbend Golf Complex in Kent along West Meeker Street. COURTESY PHOTO, City of Kent

Riverbend Golf Complex in Kent turns profit for 2nd consecutive year

City-owned facility brings in about $600,000 in 2023

After years of losing money, the city-owned Riverbend Golf Complex in Kent turned a profit for the second consecutive year in 2023.

The city continues to reap the financial benefits of selling the Riverbend par 3 course in 2017 and using a portion of that money to improve the 18-hole course and expand and upgrade the driving range.

“We turned the corner in 2022 which was the first full year of the driving range and it keeps getting better,” Parks Director Julie Parascondola said at an April 2 City Council workshop.

While the financial books are not quite closed on 2023, Parascondola said the profits will be about $600,000 for the year. That’s even higher than the $529,000 profit in 2022, according to city documents. Riverbend will have revenue of $3.74 million in 2023 and expenses of $3.14 million.

“We had about 5,500 more rounds played in 2023 compared to 2022,” Parascondola said about the complex at 2019 W. Meeker St.

Just more than 70,000 rounds were played in 2023 as the course remains one of the most popular in the region.

Parks staff estimates a profit of about $400,000 in 2024, with about 64,000 rounds.

“The forecast for 2024 is conservative,” said Parascondola, who added Parks staff purposely keeps projections lower to avoid overestimates.

If the city can find a restaurant to lease space at Riverbend, the profits could go higher. Half Lion Public House closed in October 2023 and parks staff is looking for a new tenant.

The City Council started the transition to stop the financial losses at Riverbend in 2017 when it decided to sell the par 3 course for $10.5 million to the Auburn-based FNW, Inc./Landmark Development Group to build nearly 500 apartments, now known as Ethos.

Prior to the sale of the par 3, Riverbend had a debt of $4 million to other city funds and lost an average of about $300,00 per year, covered by the general fund.

The city spent $4.6 million to renovate and expand the driving range, which features over 50 stalls, an enlarged range field, new lighting and a remodeled pro shop. The project started in February 2020 and was completed in August 2021.

Riverbend also has a fund balance of $1.2 million, as any profit stays in the golf fund.

“It’s a huge change from where we were back in the day,” Parascondola said.

Riverbend lost $715,000 in 2016 and $300,000 in 2017, according to city documents.

New manager

Eric Hinrichs took over as golf course manager at the start of the year, replacing Pete Petersen, who retired earlier this year after 30 years on the job.

Parks staff promoted Hinrichs to manager after about 23 years as the head golf pro.

Parascondola said Hinrichs watched as a kid when the city took over Riverbend in 1989. He played youth golf at the course, often with his father, and excelled in the sport at Thomas Jefferson High School, which still uses Riverbend as its home course.

“We knew working through Pete’s transition it would be Eric to promote,” Parascondola said.

Hinrichs looks forward to the new challenge.

“I’m thankful to be here and also humbled,” Hinrichs said after Parascondola introduced him at the council workshop. “I thank Pete and all the staff for their help as we transition into a new era.”

Hinrichs said the driving range showed its popularity in 2023 with more than 180,000 buckets of balls hit.

“We exceeded revenue expectations by 35%,” he said.

But there are operating challenges at the course. He said there have been vehicle prowls at the parking lot and that three gas-powered carts were stolen from a locked shed.

An aging irrigation system is slated for replacement in late 2024 and into 2025. He said the temporary closure this summer of the Meeker Street bridge for repairs will have some impact, but it’s expected to be minimal.

Hinrichs said he will keep an eye on a new seasonal driving range scheduled to open at the Auburn Municipal Golf Course to see whether that might impact business at Riverbend.

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The Riverbend Golf Complex in Kent made about $600,000 in 2023. COURTESY PHOTO, City of Kent

The Riverbend Golf Complex in Kent made about $600,000 in 2023. COURTESY PHOTO, City of Kent

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