The search is on far and wide for a company to operate – or buy – Augusta’s public golf course.
A request for proposals was advertised online and mailed Tuesday to 35 companies and individuals in nine states, according to documents obtained by The Augusta Chronicle.
Many of the recipients got their names on the list after reading news reports about the course’s closing two weeks ago, according to City Administrator Fred Russell.
The request, available on the city Web site, seeks proposals from companies able to make revenues at Augusta Municipal Golf Course “cover operational and maintenance expenses,” something the city management hasn’t been able to do in recent years.
It offers those firms the option of a five-year management contract with the city paying a fee, or a 10-year lease with the company paying the city rent.
A third option seeks proposals from companies to buy the course, an option the Augusta Commission hasn’t discussed openly since Russell proposed it as a way to raise cash a few years ago.
The 119-acre, 18-hole course next to Daniel Field airport has previously attracted interest from Augusta State University, which owns Forest Hills Golf Course nearby. ASU is working on a merger with Georgia Health Sciences University, but the consolidated university is said to need additional land.
“Anything is on the table at this point,” Mayor Pro Tem Joe Bowles said.
He pushed to have a local firm take over the course lease after The Patch in Augusta LLC quit paying its $1,000 monthly rent. A local firm expressed interest but backed out after the commission wouldn’t consent to make capital repairs it requested.
That firm’s owner, Dennis Kelly, said Tuesday he was unlikely to respond to the city’s call because it made the firm responsible for capital work.
“If they’re trying to get a management company to make capital improvements, they’re not going to get a company without an exorbitant fee,” Bowles said.
Despite the inclusion of capital improvements in the request, Russell said the city was completing about $62,000 in capital work – drainage, roof and air conditioning repairs – that Kelly requested, using funds from $300,000 in sales tax money approved by voters for the course in 2009.
After discussions with Kelly fell apart, the course shut its doors for five days. It reopened last week under interim city management.
Among those receiving requests for proposals is Augusta National Golf Club, which “at one time expressed some interest” in the course, Commissioner Jerry Brigham said.
Russell said Augusta National was probably included along with several area golf courses or parties that were sent the notice.
“Deep down inside, I hope we get lucky,” Russell said of the city’s prospects.
Augusta National spokesman Steve Ethun said the club had not received the request and had no comment or reaction at this point.
Last year, the commission opted to lease the course to The Patch in Augusta rather than pay Affiniti Golf Partners, which runs Forest Hills Golf Course, $5,000 a month to manage it.
The January lease ended years of operating losses at the course under management by the Augusta Recreation Department.
Russell said he is continuing to negotiate a temporary arrangement with Paine College golf coach Herman Belton, who has been considered to assist at the course until a company is found.