Village Links Golf Course Makes Money But Food Service a Consistent Loser
Operating surpluses at the golf course subsidize the food service losses but the future of food service hinges on a master plan drafted by the village recreation department, which is under review by the National Golf Foundation.
The food service division at the Village Links of Glen Ellyn loses thousands of dollars each year, which is subsidized by surpluses created over time by other operations at the course. Since 2006 food service operations have lost $156,065, according to village budget information.
Although food service does not generate positive cash flow for Village Links, upgrading the restaurant and the golf course is part of the $3.9 million renovation plan crafted by the village recreation department. The plan is currently under review by the National Golf Foundation, which is scheduled to issue a report to the village board in December.
NGF was hired by the village for $18,500 to review the feasibility of the current plan. In June 2010, the recreation commission was given the task of devising a master plan for Village Links, to try and attract more non-golfers year-round.
The master plan, presented to village trustees in August 2011, includes additions to the driving range that would allow golfers to hit balls during the off-season under infra-red heaters, in addition to adding a bar and dining room to the clubhouse.
Working over the off-season, Matt Pekarek, recreation director, said his staff spent about 800 man-hours designing a conceptual plan to improve the course and its facilities. To assist his staff in preparing the report, Pekarek spent approximately $6,000 to hire an engineer, an architect and a golf course architect.
By March 2011 the plan was fine-tuned, although Pekarek said there has been no engineering to see if any of the concepts are feasible, which is why NGF was hired for consultation.
The initial presentation of the plan was a disappointment to Glen Ellyn Village President Mark Pfefferman, who wanted to see more specific ways to attract non-golfers during the off-season.
“What can we do with that building to make it a bigger asset to the community?” asked Pfefferman during the August 2011 presentation.
Pfefferman said one of the economic development goals adopted by the village board earlier this year was to reverse the decline in the cash position of Village Links, particularly operating losses in food services. At a minimum, the board would like to see food services break even, he said.
“Food service could at least stop losing money and we could gain some if we could become a destination eatery,” Pfefferman said.
The village has run the golf course since 1967. Over time, a cash reserve of $1,995,911 has been built up from operations.
The food service division operated at loss during every year of the most recent five-year period period, contributing to the need to dip into reserves to make debt service payments in 2007, 2009 and 2011. During those three years, golf course operations did not make enough money to pay operating expenses and service the debt on bonds issued in 2003 for a prior renovation.
The proposed additional renovations would cost $3.9 million. If the master plan is approved, the improvements will be funded by drawing down on the reserve fund by $1 million and issuing general obligations bonds to cover the rest of the project's first phase, which could be complete by 2013.
Providing food service for a golf course that saw more than 65,000 rounds played in 2011 requires a large staff. Food service staff at The Village Links is led by Michael Atkins, the food service manager at the Links and the only full-time food service employee, who draws a salary of $66,061. The food services division also relies on 56 seasonal employees, making hourly wages ranging from $8.25 to $17, according to salary information provided by the village.
Pekarek attributes some of the food service loss to rewarding his guests. Pekarek said complimentary beverages are provided to golfers who maintain a good pace while on the course. Pekarek believes the free drinks have a positive impact on maximizing the golf rounds played, and ultimately revenue at the course.
“This report will help decide when we do improvements, or if we should do them at all,” Village Manager Mark Franz said. “They will also determine if there are other revenue sources we’ve overlooked.”
Pfefferman said it may take the village board some time to act on any recommendations, due to other pressing matters, such as the village budget and the Memorial Lights controversy.
Whatever plans go forward for renovating the golf course, Larry Noller, assistant finance director, said there will be no tax dollars associated with it.
“We take the perspective that we want the course to be self-sufficient and not supplemented by tax dollars,” Noller said.
Village Links Finances By the Numbers 2006-2011
in Cash Position
Village Links Food Service: Results of Operations 2006-2011
In the second installment of this series, Patch shows how other municipal-owned courses run food service operations.
Then we talk to village leaders to see what's next for Village Links of Glen Ellyn. Will privatizing the food service operation be on the table?