CAPE CORAL, Fla. — The city of Cape Coral has rejected outsourcing the operation of the city-owned Coral Oaks Golf Course.
“Our public golf course in my opinion, without question, is the nicest golf course in Cape Coral,” David Jimenez, resident of Northwest Cape Coral, said at this week’s city council meeting in opposition to outsourcing. “Two years ago, we went through this same thing with our maintenance crews.”
While there was no formal vote, the city council weighed three options for where to take the course from a request for proposals in 2021.
The potential contracts included leasing out the course for management and operation, handing over administrative functions of the golf course, and having vendors provide only grounds maintenance services to the course.
More than 20 concerned citizens attended Wednesday’s council meeting to show their support for the course, as they worried about the potential of the public golf course changing hands.
“It’s really important to me the people who are running it,” said Marty Foreman, resident of Northwest Cape Coral and golf passholder. “I’ve taken a look at what you get when you go to the low bidder of golf course management. I’ve been to those golf courses. I’m not going back.”
The council also chose to keep maintenance in-house and move forward with a plan to improve the course over time.
“We think that we have a good road map for moving forward with putting together a strategic plan for improvements at Coral Oaks,” City Manager Roberto Hernandez said.
Hernandez said they will be mostly following recommendations from the National Golfing Foundation, a golf industry research consultant, and the city’s golf advisory board.
A large gator greeted golfers visiting Coral Oaks Golf Course Wednesday morning, January 12, 2022 in Cape Coral as it rested next to one of the course’s ponds. Ricardo Rolon/USA TODAY NETWORK – FLORIDA
The recommendations from the golf advisory board include:
Replacing the 30-year-old irrigation system with an approximate cost of $1.7 million.
Leveling the tee boxes, filling in wet spots, and sodding bare patches at an approximate cost of $200,000.
Replacing the existing clubhouse building with a new building able to accommodate social, business, and community events at an approximate cost of $4 million.
Overhauling the practice greens and driving range at an approximate cost of $200,000.
It should be noted that the National Golfing Foundation’s recommendations line up closely, but the foundation concluded the irrigation system wasn’t an immediate priority.
Coral Oaks Golf Course opened its doors in 1988, and the two deeds were transferred to the city in 1979. The deed also limits the city’s ability to use the property for any purpose other than a golf course.
According to Ed Crann, golf advisory board chairman, the golf course made $2.9 million last year while the average municipal golf course makes $1.1 million.
The city is already spending $800,000 for cart path repairs this year.
Coral Oaks can’t fully cover all costs, and it required $175,000 of General Fund support, according to a letter from Assistant City Manager Connie Barron addressed to the mayor and council members.
She also highlighted that the golf course should be viewed as a recreational amenity for the city.
“Council should keep in mind that Coral Oaks is not a ‘profitable’ operation, nor is it intended to be,” Barron writes. “While certain adjustments can be made to the revenue and expense formulas, the golf course cannot generate enough revenue to cover all personnel and operating expenses, and fund capital improvements.”
Cape Coral resident John Seaman prepares to make a putt Wednesday morning, January 12, 2022 at Coral Oaks Golf Course. Ricardo Rolon/USA TODAY NETWORK – FLORIDA
Councilman Tom Hayden agreed with that sentiment and said he wants to see more improvements.
“Where that golf course is is the next big growth area in the community,” Hayden said. “To me, the next step is identifying a timeline, identifying what we need to get done, and how we are going to pay for it.”