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Green fees hiked at Bennett Valley, financial controls imposed

  • Golfers walk by the clubhouse and Legend Sports Bar & Grill at Bennett Valley Golf Course in Santa Rosa in 2013. (PD FILE, 2013)

Santa Rosa boosted greens fees, tightened financial controls and reduced payments to the operator of the Bennett Valley Golf Course Tuesday in an effort to help the popular attraction through the roughest financial patch in its history.

The changes, in the works for several months, are aimed at keeping from dipping any further into the course's dwindling reserves, which were on track to be nearly depleted by the end of the year.

Mayor Scott Bartley strongly cautioned staff against allowing the course's financial reserves, which are supposed to stand at more than $1 million but are now less than half that, to drop as precipitously as they have since 2009.

He said the course reserves “vaporized” with little warning to the council from city staff. “That can't be repeated. It's unacceptable,” Bartley said.

The one-year contract changes are intended to preserve cash and give the city time to negotiate longer-range changes to help the course be more sustainable.

They include reducing the monthly payment to course operator Bob Borowicz by $4,158 to $70,000, having him pay as much as $45,000 in supplies, and requiring him to pay for a marketing consultant, and allowing him to offer discounts of up to 30 percent.

The goal of the discounts is to help drive traffic during slow periods or inclement weather, a tactic currently not permitted.

“We're trying to stay competitive with the golf courses around us,” said Assistant City Manager Jennifer Phillips.

The 18-hole course, opened in 1970, is the most popular in the region, with just over 70,000 rounds played last year. It is known for its competitive rates, excellent maintenance and modern facilities.

To increase revenue, the council raised greens fees $1 to $3 for individual rounds and a 7 percent for annual passes.

Council members made it clear that they wanted the course to pay for itself and not require additional support from the city's general fund. The course is supposed to be self-sufficient but has struggled in the weak economy and under increasing debt payments for its club house.

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