By Agrippina Fadel
According to Tamarac Parks and Recreation Director Greg Warner, Colony West Golf Course needs to purchase new tee boxes and bunkers to sustain industry standards.
Although the funding comes from Colony West’s revenues and does not affect the city’s budget, the project still caused a stir at the city commission meeting on June 8, with Commissioner Marlon Bolton and Vice Mayor Mike Gelin questioning its necessity.
Warner explained that the city purchased the Colony West Club in 2011 and saw it as an opportunity to preserve green space within the community.
“The club owners were not doing well with their business and entertained propositions from the developers looking to build on the golf course,” he said.
Warner added that the city owns the club but has an agreement with Indigo Golf Partners (formerly Billy Casper Golf, LLC) to manage and maintain the golf course and related amenities as part of their responsibility.
While the golf course greens have been renovated in 2018 and remain in excellent condition, he said tea boxes and bunkers need to be updated to reflect the course’s quality.
“We know this because of the online comments from golfers, staff observations, and industry standards,” he said, adding that the American Society of Golf Course Architects recommends replacing tee boxes at least every 15 years.
“It has not been done in the 11 years since the city purchased the course, and we cannot find any records of any renovations done in the 20 years before that,” said Warner.
He explained that the Colony West course, designed in the 1970s, doesn’t have formally established woman and senior tee boxes, and the proposed project will solve this issue.
“The course is trending in the right direction,” he said, adding that the revenues are rising yearly, and more and more people choose Colony West as their go-to golf club.
The total net income for the entire Colony West Operations through April 2022 reached $881,706, and the club averages 6,300 golf rounds per month on the Championship course alone, which is 5,700 more than the same time last year.
The course renovations will include tee shaping and laser leveling, soil amendments, planting of a Bermuda turf, architectural design for bunker renovations, and enhanced drainage.
Estimated cost is $654,837, with $232,714 allocated for tee boxes, and $422,123 slated for bunkers renovations. The budget also includes a 10% contingency for a total amount of $720k.
Gelin had a lot of questions for Warner and the city staff, asking how many other cities own golf courses (Plantation, Sunrise, Davie, Hollywood, and Pompano Beach all have one) and how Colony West’s quality and revenues compare.
He then asked the city manager Kathleen Gunn if it was the city’s position to preserve green spaces, to which she said, “yes, as a general rule, as much as we can, when we can.”
Gelin asked the staff if there was a long or short-term plan to sell the course and if the city had any proposals from the developers about it. Gunn answered that the city is not planning to sell Colony West and does not have any current developing offers.
Gelin said he spoke to the owner of Woodmont Country Club, who is “not happy he has to compete with a government agency for customers.”
“He believes he has a better golf course and facilities, and he is a taxpayer. We are using part of his taxpayer dollars to fund his competition,” said Gelin.
Warner then reminded Gelin that the project is being funded through the revenues of the golf course, so the tax dollars are not utilized.
“Indigo Golf sets an operating budget every year, and anything extra goes into the net cash flow so that the renovations will be funded from that source,” he explained.
Commissioner Bolton asked why the $720k needed for the project was not a part of the $11 million renovations of Colony West.
Christine Cajuste, director of financial services, explained that the funds for the five-year reno that finished in 2021 had been expended.
After listening to Gelin and Bolton asking numerous questions, Commissioner Elvin Villalobos said he would like to encourage his colleagues to make inquiries during the agenda reviews before the meeting so that the staff is prepared to answer them.
Gelin then said he wouldn’t be voting for the renovations because he “does not support Colony West project as a whole” and insinuated he has no trust in it.
“We spent $11 million on a no-bid contract, we don’t know what’s going on and if the former city manager had a side deal and is getting paid on this as well,” he said, referencing Michael Cernech.
During the extensive financial audit, no corruption was found, said Villalobos, so the commission members “should refrain from suggesting it,” adding that Gelin “needs to consider his words cautiously.”
Gelin then said he is considering asking for a forensic audit. City Attorney John Herin clarified that Gelin would have to get his colleagues’ support to move forward.
Villalobos said he sees the renovation project as an investment in the future, and it is great to have quality golf amenities for the residents.
“Any business I am working on, I like to invest the profits into the future projects, and this is exactly what we are doing here. Not doing so will cost more in the long run,” he said.
Commissioner Debra Placko said she is happy that Colony West is making a profit. “To maintain our standards, we need to renovate, and we are using the funds of the club to do that. I have no doubt they will continue to do well,” she added.
Mayor Michele Gomez reminded her colleagues that the property was offered to the city as a short sale for $3 million, and the commission at the time saw it as an investment in the community.
“As we all invest in our homes, we sometimes need repairs. We hired a management company that takes care of this property for us in order to make money and reinvest into the club, so it continues to grow and be successful,” she added, saying she believes the city’s investments into the course and amenities will be eventually made back.
Gomez said that Tamarac has been striving to become a destination and give people a reason to visit.
“Colony West can be that reason, especially with the future opening of the hotel.”
Renovations contribute to long-term sustainability, increase golf revenue, attract more golf events, and enhance the overall golfer experience, said Warner.
“There is a direct correlation between the quality of the course and the revenue, and we saw it in 2019 after renovating the greens,” he said, adding that the project will take 3-4 months and will be completed during the summer and early fall, outside of the peak golf season but during the growing season for sod.
The resolution passed 4-1 with Gelin voting no.
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- Agrippina Fadel grew up in Siberia and received her master's in journalism from Tyumen State University. Agrippina is also a writer and editor at Draftsy.net. She has been a US resident for over ten years and speaks English and Russian.