Monday, November 14, 2011

Superior National Golf Course Special Meeting

A special meeting of the Cook County Board of Commissioners was held this morning to discuss the business plan that Sirius Golf Course Advisors prepared for the Superior National Golf Course in Lutsen.  County Board Chair Jim Johnson and Commissioners Hakes, Hall, Martinson and Sobanja were all present.  Other County Staff in attendance were Braidy Powers and Janet Simonen.

Discussion at this meeting surrounded the Superior National Golf Course Business Plan as presented by Sirius Golf Advisors.  John Waite of Sirius Golf Advisors and Golf Course Architect Jeff Brauer gave a basic overview of the Business Plan and proposed course layout for the "Best 18".  Others present were Bob Fenwick, Mike Litfin, Jim King, George Nelson and and a few members of the Public.

For a complete copy of this plan, contact County Auditor-Treasurer Braidy Powers.  In the meantime, read on for a very brief summary of the proposed plan as I understand it today:

The Plan proposed is basically to  create a "World Class 18-Holes" resort quality course (currently there are 27 holes at Superior National).  The current layout for this "new" course involves part of all three current nine holes, plus two holes that are routed "up the river" on land owned by the ski resort (to be negotiated).

Phase I Construction will begin with renovation of the current River nine holes, an irrigation lake, and a new bridge which will become the "back nine" for the "World Class 18-Holes" course.  While the construction for this part is going on, golfers will be playing the Mountain and Canyon 9's as an 18-hole course.  Phase II work will include partial rebuilding of 4 holes, rebuilding 2 holes in place, building 3 new holes, and driving range.

The total estimated cost for this work to renovate the existing 27 holes to this "World Class 18-Holes" resort quality course is just under $6 million.  Sirius Golf Advisors, the EDA and SNGC Management are requesting that ~$3.1 million of this be funded with One Percent Local Sales Option Tax funds.  The balance would be funded through possible grants, bonding, and revenues.  Proponents of the Plan believe the total impact to the County will be $3.3 million per year.

After a lengthy discussion, the County Board passed 3-2 a motion to allocate a total of $3.1 million of One Percent Local Sales Option Tax funding for Phase I of this Plan, contingent upon County Board review of the overall One Percent Funding plan.

Voting YES to allocate $3.1M for Phase I as described above were Jim Johnson, Bruce Martinson and Fritz Sobanja.  Voting NO were Sue Hakes and Jan Hall.

I voted against this plan for the following reasons:

1.  The Plan is too financially risky.  There is a lack of supporting evidence for the projected revenues, projected expenses and projected economic impact.  Golf is not a growing industry.

2.  The proposed Plan is an extreme deviation from what was presented to the Public at the time of the Referendum for the One Percent Tax.  Initially, there was a request to the County to pay off ~$400K in bond debt (not allowable under One Percent legislation).  At/near the time of the Referendum passing, the SNGC allocation from the County Board was $0.  Now the request is for $3.1 million.

3.  This plan does not include a commitment from any funding source other than the County.  When the County Board earmarked $1.8 million for improvements to SNGC it was based on the idea that there be a sound business plan and success in obtaining funding from other sources without incurring new debt.

I support reasonable improvements at Superior National Golf Course, but to date there is not a sound plan for moving forward.