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Taking a swing at more revenue
Manteca ponders enticement plan for golf pro
A golfer plays a round at the Manteca Golf Course. - photo by Bulletin file photo

Manteca is dangling a carrot in front of Manteca Golf Pro Alan Thomas that could put more green in his pocket.

All he would need to do is generate more than $814,044 a year in green fee revenues.

Currently Thomas - who is the contracted golf pro who manages the course - receives 10 percent of all green fees collected with 90 percent going to the city.

Under a plan being considered by the City Council on Tuesday Thomas would receive 90 percent of green fees generated above the $814,000 baseline in 2013, 2014 and 2015 with the city receiving 10 percent.

If he is able to increase play by 6,000 rounds by the end of 2015, he will receive 75 percent of green fees for the final two years of his contact in 2016 and 2017. If not, the split for all green fees will revert to 90 percent for the city and 10 percent for Thomas.

The proposed contract change also delineates that any increase by the city of any category of play would result in 100 percent of that revenue going to the city.

Originally Thomas approached the council in December with a plan to reduce the city’s current green fee split with no caveat for increased rounds so he could have additional money to add staff in a bid to generate business. His argument was increased play benefits both the city as well as himself.

The council, though, balked at essentially lowering the city’s current cut on the chance that Thomas’ plan would work. Instead the proposal being considered by the council Tuesday when they meet at 7 p.m. at the Civic Center, 1001 W. Center St., would reward Thomas for increasing play without the city gambling revenue it is currently receiving.

Thomas indicated in a memo to the council that the Manteca course has lost 3,270 rounds of play during the first seven months of the fiscal year that started July 1 due not to the economy but increased competition.

He noted that more and more private courses for the first time are in direct competition with municipal courses. They are dropping their rates at times when play is slower.

There were 10 municipal courses a few years back competing for 380,000 annual rounds of golf in the region. Today, Thomas said there are eight privately owned public courses or 18 courses now competing for the same customers.

Thomas indicated he expects to invest $280,000 over the next five years to sharpen promotional efforts and enhance customer service. Those two elements are considered key by leaders in the golf industry to improve rounds of play in a competitive environment.

Thomas believes if he is successful he can recoup his investment and the city would see an increase of revenue it receives from green fees of $280,600 over the five-year period.

In a memo to the council he noted, “I am willing to accept the City Manager’s (Karen McLaughlin) proposal and take all financial risk as it is very important that we act now before more play is lost to the golf courses.”

Rounds played in Manteca increased from 54,770 in 2006 to 62,690 in 2008 and 62,085 in 2009 before declining to 59,110 in the fiscal year that ended June 30, 2012.

The course is expected to bring in $85,705 above the estimated expenses of $1,056,615 it is projected to cost to operate the facility during the current fiscal year that ends June 30, 2013. The previous fiscal was projected to end with a $29,520 surplus in the golf enterprise fund.

The golf enterprise fund has been able to reverse deficit spending despite decreased consumer disposable income that is impacting play. It has been accomplished through cutbacks in the compensation of municipal employees that keep the course maintained plus the elimination of a large chunk of its debt service that at one time accounted for 22 percent of the annual expenses.

Thirty months ago the final annual $175,000 payment was made on a lease-purchase arrangement to build the golf course clubhouse in the early 1990s.

Manteca took out a 25-year loan in 1978 to convert the old wastewater treatment plant to expand the golf course to 18 holes and built the tennis courts along Union Road.

The last payment will be made this year to free the golf course of a $52,000 a year obligation. That debt accounts for 5 percent of the budget for the current fiscal year.

Up until two years ago the city had to make an annual loan averaging $140,000 from the general fund to the golf account to balance expenditures and revenue. That was on top of the $155,000 considered a subsidy for reduced senior and youth play.