National Golf Foundation Weighs In On Village Links Improvement Plans
All but one Glen Ellyn trustee voted to approve the initial phases of improvements at the municipal-owned course, following the recommendation report from the foundation.
After seeking input from a national golf consulting group, Village Links of Glen Ellyn is on track for renovations.
Trustees awarded multiple contracts to engineers and architects, totaling $237,700 to kick-start the first leg of the project. No construction work is scheduled yet, this green light from trustees allows architects and engineers to devise a plan for Village Links. The cost for these services will come from the Village Links cash reserves -- not from taxpayers. Peter Cooper was the sole trustee to vote against the plans.
At Monday's meeting, the board reviewed the recommendations of the National Golf Foundation and its thoughts on the course's master plan for improvements. The master plan was first developed in 2010 when the recreation commission was tasked with devising ways to attract non-golfers to Village Links year round. To see if their plans were feasible the village hired National Golf Foundation for $18,500 to review the concepts.
A large portion of the master plan, drafted by Village Links staff, focused on improving the clubhouse to attract year-round customers. Patch's earlier investigation found that the food service division loses thousands of dollars each year, but is subsidized by surpluses created over time by other non-food service operations at the course. Since 2006 food service operations have lost $156,065, according to village budget information. Those losses have some trustees hesitant to invest in the project.
Overall, NGF agreed that renovations needed to be made to increase revenues but differed slightly on the extent of changes, and when they should be made. The current master plan by staff calls for renovating the current 22,000 square-foot clubhouse in two phases to cut down on cost. However, NGF would rather see a new, smaller clubhouse completed in one phase, which would minimize disruption for customers. By improving the clubhouse, NGF feels the staff could attract and host weddings and non-golf banquets, which would have a significant impact on revenues. NGF estimates these accommodations could bring in $150,000 in revenue. But Matt Pekarek, recreation director, doubts his staff can capture those revenues from weddings and banquets, which caused Cooper to vote no.
"The director has been very candid and he doubts those revenue sources are out there. So, to say that the NGF thinks we will make even more money, well they think so, and our management does not think those [revenues] are out there."
The major focus of renovation is adding a new restaurant and bar to the new clubhouse. While this projected is estimated to increase revenues by $110,000, NGF warns that establishing an "evening meal" business is risky and would not recommend Village Links "count" on this type of business.
Village leaders have discussed privitizing the food service operation at Village Links but NGF recommends on keeping the operation in-house instead of bringing in an outside vendor and "risk a long-term marriage that may not work for the long run."
NGF also evaluated the golf course. Rounds played increased slightly since last year, but according to NGF, rounds have declined by 8.5 percent since 2007. NGF believes a good way to increase rounds during a slow period is to begin hosting tournaments and outings. NGF cites in its report that in the past Village Links "actively discouraged" hosting outings. By increasing rounds through these methods, NGF expects Village Links to bring in $40,000 in revenue.
The driving range improvements were slated for phase two, which according to staff, may not happen due to the availability of funds, but NGF highly recommends making adjustments to the range to avoid a lawsuit. According to NGF, the range is too short; it's 210 yards from the tees to the trees. The report states that many golfers can hit the ball 250 yards, causing balls to interfere with other golfers on the 5th hole of the 9-hole course, which according to NGF, creates a liability issue for the village.
Trustees Cooper and Pete Ladesic were hesitant to approve the project because the project hinges on improving the clubhouse to attract more customers for food and drinks, however no major work will be done to the current kitchen to reflect a greater output of services. The report states that the kitchen is small for the size of the clubhouse but is adequate for the current volume of customers. Ladesic questioned whether the "right people" are in place to take the clubhouse to the next level. Ladesic said this is something he would be willing to review before the bids are awarded for construction.
"We haven't been all that successful with the existing food service, so my natural guess would be let's bring some people in who have that particular expertise," said Ladesic.