The Petaluma, Calif.-based company that runs Columbia Point Golf Course in Richland made its pitch Tuesday for keeping management of the facility.
Richland owns the course and has a contract to operate it with CourseCo. The five-year contract expires in December, and CourseCo is in an exclusive negotiating period. The city paid CourseCo $99,891 to manage the course in 2014.
CourseCo has successfully operated Columbia Point since taking it over in 2011, even though golf has taken a bigger hit from the recession than other forms of recreation, said Tom Bugbee, CourseCo vice president of operations. He said more golf courses are closing than opening nationwide in recent years.
But Columbia Point has seen revenue increase by 1.8 percent between 2010-14, while statewide golf course revenue is down 2.3 percent and national revenue is off 3.9 percent, Bugbee told the city council. Revenue at Columbia Point dipped 3.2 percent in 2014, but it was down 5.9 percent in Washington.
Revenue is up more than 20 percent so far in 2015, Bugbee said.
The course has brought in $6 million in revenue since 2011, with $900,000 in operating profits, Bugbee said.
But with debt service figured in, the course loses between $75,000 and $100,000 annually, said Joe Schiessl, Richland parks and public facilities director.
To help break even, CourseCo would like to expand its food service at the course, and look into adding an event center, Bugbee said.
“We’re not able to serve a larger banquet out there,” Bugbee said, adding that some of the company’s courses have more than 100 weddings annually.
It has already made changes like making the bunkers on holes 12 and 14 smaller, he said. Plans are also in the works to change the bunker on the 18th hole.
About 10 percent of people play golf, Bugbee said. So the course introduced a “movie night” last year to allow others to see it. More than 500 people attended.
The course employs up to 30 people at peak times, he said.
The course, which opened in 1998, has helped Columbia Point develop into an area that has a tax base of more than $131 million, Schiessl said. He said it would be hard to find a similar-sized area in the city with such a value.
Councilman Phillip Lemley questioned why the course doesn’t irrigate with wastewater, but Schiessl said Columbia Point has the optimal situation now using water directly from the Columbia River.
“We have the pump, we pay the electricity, we own the water rights,” he said.
CourseCo manages 26 courses, mostly on the West Coast. It also operates Sun Willows in Pasco, Columbia Park Golf Links in Kennewick and Washington State University’s Palouse Ridge in Pullman.