On Tuesday the Santa Rosa City Council approved a new proposal to help get the Bennett Valley Golf Course back into the black. The plan will include the help of taxpayers and a restructuring of the clubs operating plan.
Bennett Valley golf course operator Bob Borowicz, who put the proposal together, agreed to a new five-year plan, which includes a three-year city option.
“I gave them (City Council) a proposal, and after some negotiations, and some give and take, we got it done,” Borowicz said. “Basically I have the same job, but the compensation changes. My revenues now are tied directly to the green fees, where in the past the City received 100 percent. I had the carts and the range and then the City gave me a monthly check, basically for the maintenance of the golf course. It’s now setup that we split the green fees, the driving range revenues, the golf cart revenues and all the rental revenues, like clubs and pull carts. Now I will write them a check for their percentage split. I will also take over some additional expenses like paying for utilities, repairs of equipment and supplies. Basically anything that’s needed on a day-to-day basis.”
Borowicz pointed out the economy has been a big part of why rounds of golf have dwindled over the recent years, but wanted to make one thing perfectly clear. This new contract isn’t a bail out for the drop off in play.
“In the Press Democrat article this week it implied this would help bail out the golf course,” Borowicz stated. “It’s not that. The operations are fine before you get to the debt service and that obligation. It’s not the golf course itself. I think it’s a misconception. I think it’s more of taking responsibility for the debt service that went along with the construction of the two buildings. There were great intentions, but it just turned out to be a bad business decision about how much money was spent for the two buildings. There was a much smaller percentage that came out of the $10 million for the Pro Shop, but the restaurant was built not just for the golfers, but for a meeting place for outside groups like civic groups and clubs. That’s how it’s used. There’s quite a banquet facility for weddings, memorial services, fundraisers and holiday parties. But it never penciled out whether the revenue it generated was going to be enough in the terms of rent the operator would have to pay. We knew those buildings weren’t going to bring in that many more golfers. That was a given.”
One of the main objectives for Borowicz is to get more golfers to play the course.
“We’ll sit down with our marketing team we hired last winter,” Borowicz said. “One of the possibilities is improving a pass structure. Maybe we’ll try experimenting with a six-month pass, like a player’s card, type of deal. You would receive a discount on 10 rounds of golf that would be different than the off the rack price. A player could pay an upfront fee for say $100 or $200, which would entitle them to discounts throughout the season. Hopefully it will lead to more repeat business. ´We’ll have to wait and see.”
Borowicz said another way to make more money would be raising the golfing fees.
“We recently raised our rates, but I’m sure there will be other hikes down the road,” Borowicz said. “I don’t know when, maybe next year or the year after that, but it’s a possibility. That’s why I requested an opportunity to run promotions and discounts so if the so called rack rates don’t work I don’t have to go through the bureaucracy to get the city council to approve it, so we can get those people back.”
Borowicz has been proud of the longevity of staff core over the years at Bennett Valley and had mentioned that he hoped to retire where he got his beginning. That’s a very real possibility if things go well with this new contract. If he were to get the three-year extension it would end the same year he turns 65. What a great time to sign up for Social Security. Best of luck Bob, we’ll see you out at the course.