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Santa Rosa hopes new operator can help turn Bennett Valley golf course around

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Company officials have already begun meeting with various Santa Rosa groups to launch youth programs and expand access to older residents, Harker said.

One program the company is considering would combine golf instruction with job training. The company would transport the youth to the course to teach them how to play golf and train them in various jobs on the course that they can do after school.

Touchstone plans to host other types of events, like runs and luncheons, to bring people to the site as well, he said.

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City working on long term plan for course

Beyond day-to-day operations, the city will now begin looking at ways to revitalize the countryside and pay for improvements.

Touchstone has committed $50,000 for landscaping at the golf course entrance.

Other minor improvements are planned in the first year, including work on sand traps, tree thinning, and the restaurant.

But in the long run, millions in improvements are needed across all facilities. One of the top priorities is to replace the 50-year-old irrigation system and install a drainage system to prevent water from pooling in the links, estimated to cost $4.4 million.

A consultant earlier this year recommended completing a site-wide master plan and creating a list of priority projects. Touchstone has said that some of the work can be done in-house.

Now the city must figure out how to pay for the improvements.

The consultant recommended financing the work through a general fund investment, bonds or by using revenue from the golf course, a move that could require the city to raise gaming fees.

As a city business, the golf course is supposed to be self-sustaining, meaning that revenue from the course must pay for operations and capital projects.

Annual rounds played on the course bring in revenue, but the course’s profitability is hampered by an annual payment of $458,500 needed to pay off about $4 million in debt stemming from a clubhouse renovation in 2005. The city hopes to retire debt by 2030.

The debt load has forced the city to use reserve funds and general fund dollars to operate the course and pay off obligations, leaving less money for improvements.

City officials hope the new management contract will be more lucrative for Santa Rosa.

The city will receive all proceeds from the course and is responsible for all operating expenses under the new management contract. Under the previous contract, not enough revenue was being captured to cover costs, said Deputy Parks Director Jen Santos.

Course revenue should also see an increase with the restaurant reopening after two years, Santos said.

Santos said the city projects a loss in the first year due to the costs of transferring operations, minor improvements and debt payments, but the field is expected to operate green in the coming years and excess funds can be used for improvements. capital.

City staff will return to the council later this year with an update on ongoing revenues and expenses, a list of recommended capital projects and financing options.

Golfers have ‘high hopes’

Capuano, who has been playing at Bennett Valley since he was a kid in the early 1990s, described the course as his second home.

He became involved with the golf club about 16 years ago. Club members make up many of the rounds played at Bennett Valley, she said. Its annual membership fluctuates from around 250 to 350 members.

Capuano worries that, without improvements, talk of renovating the field will not go away.

The remodeling of the pro shop and restaurant made the course a great place, but at a cost. If the farm wasn’t burdened with debt, that money could be put toward deferred maintenance and the farm would be profitable, he said.

“(The contract) is certainly a good step in the right direction, but I have a feeling that issue will never be closed,” he said. “But I have high hopes for this contract.”

Dan Galvin is more optimistic.

Galvin, whose father headed a committee in the 1960s that led to the course’s creation and was one of the pro shop’s original employees when he was a high school student, said Touchstone will bring stability to the course.

He was upset that the city considered rebuilding Bennett Valley, but he was glad that elected officials listened to the thousands of residents who fought to save the field, he said.

He hopes the argument is over forever.

“I hope that the course is preserved forever and that any idea of ​​selling or rebuilding part or all of it will go away,” he said.

You can reach staff writer Paulina Pineda at 707-521-5268 or [email protected] On Twitter @ paulinapineda22.

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