Recommend Closing Course
Normandy Oaks Golf Course, one of Royal Oak's two nine-hole municipal golf courses, may not open this summer. City Manager Don Johnson told members of the Royal Oak City Commission he will recommend they approve the closing the golf course this year. Johnson made his announcement at a strategic planning session as part of his presentation on parks and recreation goals and planning. The financial growth of the golf course is simply not there. The 9-hole Normandy Oaks Golf Club in Royal Oak, MI is a private golf course that opened in 1972. Normandy Oaks Golf Club measures 2823 yards from the longest tees and has a slope rating of 104 and a 32.7 USGA rating. The course features 3 sets of tees for different skill levels.
“We think looking at the history of the golf rounds sold at Royal Oak Golf Club makes it clear that revenue from Normandy Oaks will never come close to meeting the cost of operating the course,” wrote Greg Rassel, director of the departments of public services and recreation. According to the memo, the golf operation at the two courses in 2013 lost $96,434. Royal Oak Golf LLC manages the courses for the city, and noted the Royal Oak Golf Course brings in almost double the rounds and double the revenue of Normandy Oaks. The parks and recreation advisory board however recommended the city keep it open. Closing it would “be giving it a death sentence,” said board member Mike Ripinski at the meeting. Administration is recommending that if the commission chooses to close the course it would be treated as green space and mowed once every two-to-three weeks. The contract with the course operator also will be restructured.
The course cannot be sold, unless it is approved by voters. "The plus is there is probably the potential to bring in from its sale enough to complete everything in our our parks and recreation master plan," Johnson said. The $6.7 million master plan includes a splash park and community center with a pool, said Stewart Meek, assistant to the city manager.
"It includes pretty much everything people asked for, except for a downtown park," Meek said. The value of the golf course is somewhere in the neighborhood of $14-18 million, according to Johnson. Should the city close Normandy Oaks this summer it will have to decide whether or not to maintain it as a golf course or simply keep it from being an eyesore.
The city has a provision in its ordinances that states the land has to be maintained for recreation use, according to the city manager.
"The only way we could do anything else or sell it would be to put it on the ballot," Johnson said. The City Commission did approve a plan that could extend the life of Normandy Oaks Golf Club for at least one more season. While the course creates revenue for the city through the lease agreement it has with the company running it, officials say it is creating financial losses for Royal Oak Golf LLC, which maintains both city courses — Normandy Oaks and Royal Oak Golf Club. Royal Oak Golf LLC believes if it was running only one course, it would be better off.The manager of the courses, Joe Spatafore, said even though the two nine-hole courses are next to one another, the railroad tracks running through them prevent the courses from becoming one 18-hole course. “If the golf courses were connected, this wouldn’t be a problem,” .
Spatafore said he has to maintain more employees and pay more bills because they are separate. “I have double everything,” he said. Last year, the company claims it lost $96,000 mainly due to decrease in turnout.
According to figures submitted by the company to the city, last year Normandy Oaks had 9,839 rounds of golf played, while Royal Oak had 20,099 rounds played. The plan approved with a 5-2 commission vote would keep the nine-hole course open this year if the city and Royal Oak Golf can agree to a contract that would shift some costs for running Normandy Oaks onto the city. The renegotiated contract would have to come back to the City Commission for approval. If no agreement could be made, the commission would then have to make the decision to close the course immediately or keep it open under the current contract — a decision that City Manager Don Johnson is afraid could risk putting Royal Oak Golf LLC out of business.
Closing the park this year would cost the city up to $15,000 in maintenance costs, said Greg Rassel, the city’s director of public services. Rassel also said the decision to close the course would be final because of the extreme costs to make the landscape again suitable for golf. “So if we are just going to maintain it as a green space, there’s no going back to a golf course,” Rassel said. While renegotiating the contract, the city will form an ad hoc committee tasked to come up for another use for Normandy Oaks. City Manager Don Johnson suggested the city could repurpose the land into another park or recreational facility, but it would cost the city money.
While commissioners largely acknowledged that the days of the city having two golf courses are numbered, the supporters of the plan said closing Normandy Oaks without having a plan is irresponsible. “I think it’s tough to make a decision without knowing in the long-term what we’re going to do with it,” said Mayor Jim Ellison. He added keeping the course open for one more season would allow time for the development of a plan. A closure would likely lead to a sale of the land, about 48 acres, that would have to be approved by a vote of residents.
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