By Kevin Kelley
The idea of converting a section of Meadowood Gold Course into a driving range came up short of the green in the minds of Westlake City Council members.
Council’s Public Grounds, Buildings and Recreation Committee voted 3-0 April 28 to take no action toward construction of a driving range at the city-owned golf course. Instead, the committee directed the administration of Mayor Dennis Clough to improve the course and increase its revenue stream.
Two years ago, the city paid NGF Consulting Services, a subsidiary of the Florida-based National Golf Foundation, $18,000 to develop a long-range plan for Meadowood, which has been losing money for five years.
In January 2013, NGF Consulting recommended that the city close one of the three golf courses at Meadowood and replace it with a driving range and golfing practice facility. Implementation of such a plan, along with improvements to the two remaining courses, would make Meadowood profitable again, NGF said.
Specifically, NGF Consulting recommended Meadowood close its nine-hole regulation-length course, known as the Yellow Course, because it had the most significant drainage problems of the three. The two other courses, called the Red and White, are each nine-hole, executive-length (par 68 or less) courses.
Getting the driving range up and running would cost $980,000, NGF Consulting estimated.
Ward 5 Councilman Ken Brady, who chairs the recreation committee, said members questioned NGF Consulting’s revenue estimates for the driving range.
NGF Consulting projected that the new driving range would sell $75,000 in baskets of practice balls in its fifth year of operation, earning $263,800 in revenue. Because plans for the driving range include heated, covered stations, the revenue estimates were based on 12 months of operation. But the past winter caused council members to doubt those estimates.
“It wasn’t something that we were really sold on,” Brady said. “The other thing is that the golf industry seems to be slowing down.”
Westlake Recreation Director Bob DeMinico said his department will develop more realistic estimates of the revenue a driving range would generate.
The possibility of a driving range at Meadowood will continue to be considered as part of the recreation department’s master plan, being written this year, DeMinico said. A short-term plan to improve Meadowood’s courses will also be developed in conjunction with the master plan, he added.
“We have deferred improvement to the Yellow Course anticipating a driving range was going in there,” the recreation director said. But something will have to be done soon, he said, because of the significant drainage problems on that course, he explained.
Opened in 1964 as a private club, Meadowood was purchased by the city for $1.12 million in 1987 with the intention of eventually converting it into a city park. A condition of the sale was for the city to continue operating the golf course for five years. The property was never converted to a park because the cost was prohibitive compared to maintaining it as a golf course, the mayor has said.
Also at the April 28 meeting, council’s recreation committee approved authorization of spending $1.5 million for a new roof at the Westlake Recreation Center’s aquatic center, which includes four pools. The money would also pay for two new heating and air conditioning systems.
An engineering firm found several deficiencies in the roof and recommended replacing rather than repairing it. When the recreation center was built in 1997, the roof was said to have a life expectancy of 20 years. Because it needs to be replaced after just 17 years, the committee directed the city’s law department to determine if any legal or insurance claims can be made in the matter.
The recreation center closes during the second and third week in August every year for maintenance. The roof replacement will take place during the annual maintenance period and require the aquatic center to be closed an additional two weeks, DeMinico said.