BROOKSVILLE — Hoping to shave as much as possible from the city's tight budget next year, City Council members unanimously agreed Monday to lease the Quarry Golf Course to a private operator beginning Oct. 1.
Bob Carson, who owns and operates Ridge Manor Oaks Golf and Country Club, received an initial five-year lease with the option of two five-year extensions.
Under the lease terms, Carson won't pay any rent the first year, but will pay for all utilities and renovations to the golf course. Starting the second year, he will pay $500 a month in rent, with a 10 percent incremental increase each year.
According to City Manager Jennene Norman-Vacha, the deal will let the city save about $73,000 in expenses it would otherwise incur keeping the golf course open. She projected the facility would lose at least $100,000 during the next fiscal year.
Despite efforts over the years to improve its appeal to golfers, the 18-year-old facility has never attracted enough business to put it into the black. Year after year, the city has subsidized the operation of the nine-hole course off Broad Street. The facility ran a deficit this year of about $147,000.
Last month, the city began advertising for bids in an effort to find a suitable tenant. Carson was the only bidder.
A former golf pro who once played on the PGA senior tour, Carson said he knows how to turn an ailing golf course around. In 2007, he bought the bankrupt Whispering Oaks Golf & Country Club, the oldest golf course in Hernando County, and went to work renovating the greens, tees and fairways. The course began earning a profit last year.
Years of neglect have taken their toll and limited the facility's ability to attract new customers, Carson said.
"The greens are in bad shape, and there's standing water all over the place," Carson said. "No one wants to play golf in a swamp."
Carson plans to spend between $35,000 and $40,000 on improving drainage, planting new sod and restoring areas of the driving range. To attract more customers and make the facility more user-friendly to golfers, he wants to begin selling beer.
Allowing beer to be regularly sold on city property will require council action. Although a resolution was on Monday's agenda, council members voted to bring the issue back at their Oct. 3 meeting so that they could review additional liability concerns.
"I think Mr. Carson has all the tools for success," council member Lara Bradburn said. "But this also has to work for the city as well. We need to get it right."
Logan Neill can be reached at (352) 848-1435 or [email protected]