New year will bring new management at city-owned golf course

JH Golf submitted the only valid proposal last June.

There will be a change in golf course management come the first of the year, as local residents Bill Jensen and Steve Hodgman are set to take charge of Enumclaw’s 18-hole course.

The existing lease agreement with Swiftwater Golf expires Dec. 31. In preparation, the city went public early this year with its desire to find a new, private operator. The two business partners, operating under the banner of J&H Golf, submitted the only valid proposal in June and worked with the city to hammer out contract details.

The city’s stated goal was to find an operator able to “provide recreational opportunities for not only local golfers, but to attract golfers from the greater Puget Sound area in order to provide indirect and induced benefits, similar to the Expo Center, but smaller in scale.”

Both Jensen and Hodgman attended the Nov. 25 meeting of the Enumclaw City Council. Jensen noted his lifelong affiliation with the course – his mother took him for the first time when he was 10 – and asserted that “not enough attention has been paid to the course.”

The outgoing operator, Jensen said, has seen the golf course simply as a revenue stream. But that’s not the motivation for J&H Golf, he added.

“Our goal, over the next 10 years, is to put money into it and make it a destination,” Jensen said. Upgrades are planned, he added, “so golfers will drive 45 minutes or an hour like they used to in the ’60 and ‘70s.”

Current trends in the golf industry aren’t universally favorable, Jensen said, but can be beneficial on the local level. During the past five years, he explained, five golf courses have gone out of business, all less than 45 minutes from Enumclaw. As a result, he said, surviving courses like Riverbend, Auburn and Maplewood “are all enjoying unbelievable business.”

Following Jensen’s comments, the council voted unanimously to approve the contract with J&H Golf. The pact calls for the following:

• annual lease payments to the city will be waived the first three years of the agreement because the operator agrees to spend money on enhanced course maintenance, capital improvements and/or equipment purchases;

• beginning in 2023, annual lease payments will be made to the city equaling 7 percent of the gross revenues in excess of $300,000;

• the city will make capital purchases/improvements of $168,000 in 2020’

• the city will replace certain equipment during the first contract term, the most costly being a mower with an estimated price tag of $48,000.

SOME LOCAL HISTORY

The city took ownership of the golf course, along with the local swimming pool, in 2003. King County had owned and operated both venues but sought to rid itself of those facilities.

The golf course was initially leased to private operators but the city took over operations in 2009. During his presentation to council, City Administrator Chris Searcy referred to the time when “we went on our short little three-year expedition of trying to run a golf course. That was fun – not.”

The city invested in the course, purchasing a complete fleet of grounds maintenance equipment that remains in service.

City leaders ceased its operation in March 2013 in favor of another lease to a private operator. Swiftwater Golf made a pitch and was granted a lease that ended in 2017 but was extended for two years; that arrangement expires next week.

A formal “request for proposals” was issue on May 10, 2019, resulting in the agreement with J&H Golf.


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