Monday, December 18, 2017
News Roundup

Dunedin golf course operator gets temporary break on rent

DUNEDIN — Operators of the struggling Dunedin Stirling Links golf course will get a couple of more years to try to boost revenues before they have to start paying the city rent.

In spring 2010, Dunedin contracted with Billy Casper Golf, a national golf course management group, to assume operation and management of the city-owned course.

In addition to sharing revenue and concession profits above a certain threshold, Billy Casper agreed to start paying the city a $25,000 annual license fee in four years to cover rent. Payments were to start in March 2013.

However, golf officials across the nation say the economic downturn has hit the industry especially hard. Billy Casper officials, whose pleas in 2011 for a city subsidy were rejected, approached Dunedin again last week to ask for a compromise on the rent fee.

This time, city commissioners obliged, unanimously voting to waive rent either for two years or until the course generates annual gross golf revenue of $550,000, whichever comes first.

The Links last year generated $329,398 in gross golf revenue, which includes greens, cart, golf pass and driving range income.

"It sounds like we'll wait and see how things go," said Commissioner Julie Scales.

The vote of the commission was in line with a recommendation by Dunedin parks and recreation director Vince Gizzi, who called the temporary rate abatement the most cost effective of the city's options, given that Billy Casper will continue to cover all course operations and maintenance expenses.

Other alternatives he presented the commission:

• Seek bids from a new management company.

• Absorb the course back into the city parks and recreation department, at a cost of up to $70,000 a year plus improvement costs.

• Seek to merge the course with the adjacent Dunedin Golf Club, which would require the agreement of Dunedin Golf Club's board and at least $50,000 a year in city support.

• Turn the course into a city park, at a cost of up to $150,000 a year plus initial start-up costs.

Still, several city commissioners said they were concerned with complaints about Stirling Links' condition. Vice Mayor Julie Ward Bujalski asked that the city and management company's maintenance expectations be put in writing and reviewed at the end of the two-year rent waiver period.

Tony Cianci, Billy Casper's vice president of operations, said the company is "committed" to maintaining the level of upkeep that city residents and patrons expect. Staff is preparing for peak season by nursing and sodding the greens.

"There will be a slight drop in the way the condition of the golf course looks during the off-season," Cianci said. "But that's good business sense in our minds because it's putting the resources that we have at the time when we have the most people taking advantage of the property."

He also noted that the company has poured at least $150,000 into renovations during its agreement with the city and never missed an annual payment to the city's capital reserve fund.

If the course finally manages to beef up revenues, Gizzi said Dunedin's contract makes it eligible to receive a 20 percent cut of gross golf revenues above $550,000 and 10 percent of concessions profits above $150,000.

Contact Keyonna Summers (727) 445-4153 or [email protected] To write a letter to the editor, go to tampabay.com/letters.

Comments
Florida gas prices back to pre-Hurricane Harvey levels

Florida gas prices back to pre-Hurricane Harvey levels

Just in time for one of the busiest travel periods of the year, gas prices across Florida are back down to pre-Hurricane Harvey levels. Tampa Bay gas hit $2.30 per gallon today, while state prices averaged $2.37 per gallon, according to AAA, The Auto...
Updated: 19 minutes ago
Tampa flights affected as Atlanta airport outage creates holiday chaos

Tampa flights affected as Atlanta airport outage creates holiday chaos

ATLANTA — While power has been restored to the world’s busiest airport, the travel woes will linger for days.Thousands of people were stranded Monday morning at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, where more than 1,000 flights were gro...
Updated: 1 hour ago

Portion of Lutz Lake Fern Road closed after crash involving motorcycle

TAMPA — A portion of Lutz Lake Fern Road is closed in northwest Hillsborough County following a crash involving a motorcycleHillsborough County deputies say the roadway is expected to be closed between Sunlake Boulevard and Cypress Green Drive for th...
Updated: 1 hour ago
St. Pete man and dog were constant companions, in life and now in death

St. Pete man and dog were constant companions, in life and now in death

ST. PETERSBURG -- For more than a decade, Gerald Rittinger’s dog kept him alive.The Air Force veteran died on Dec. 3 at age 77. He is survived by his wife, Jeanne, who said she would have lost him 14 years earlier if not for their yellow Labrador, Ze...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Advocates push orca breeding law as SeaWorld’s policy appears murky

Advocates push orca breeding law as SeaWorld’s policy appears murky

The announcement was rolled out to the world as a pledge. A promise.In March 2016 SeaWorld declared it would end killer whale breeding, making the orcas in its care in the United States and abroad its last generation to live in captivity.Later that y...
Updated: 1 hour ago
The government admits it studies UFOs. So about those Area 51 conspiracy theories.

The government admits it studies UFOs. So about those Area 51 conspiracy theories.

For decades, Americans were told that Area 51 didn’t really exist and that the U.S. government had no official interest in aliens or UFOs. Statements to the contrary, official-sounding people cautioned, were probably the musings of crackpots in tinfo...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Rick and Tom podcast: Will Jon Gruden be the Bucs’ coach next year?

Rick and Tom podcast: Will Jon Gruden be the Bucs’ coach next year?

Jon Gruden will be inducted into the Bucs Ring of Honor tonight, but could it be more than just that as the Glazers may be looking for a new head coach come January? In their latest podcast, Rick Stroud and Tom Jones discuss whether Gruden would coac...
Updated: 2 hours ago

Missing Child Alert canceled for Homestead boy, 13

A Florida Missing Child Alert has been canceled for a 13-year-old Homestead boy.According to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, John Noble-Sinclair had last seen Sunday in the area of 300 block of Southwest 4th Avenue.The case has been resolv...
Updated: 2 hours ago
LeBron wears one black shoe and one white shoe, speaks about Trump

LeBron wears one black shoe and one white shoe, speaks about Trump

WASHINGTON — LeBron James made a statement during an NBA game with his shoes — one black, one white, with the word "equality" in capital gold letters on the back of each.Then, after the game, James made a statement about President Donald Trump, sayin...
Updated: 3 hours ago

Deputies seek suspects who fired shots into crowded Northdale nightclub

TAMPA — Hillsborough County deputies are searching for the suspects who fired shots inside a crowded nightclub in Northdale early Monday morning.According to the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office, deputies patrolling the area heard shooting coming...
Updated: 3 hours ago