Call it the Muni Cup of golf management.To see rest of the article. click here.
Mayor Greg Ballard’s administration is requesting proposals to manage all but one of Indianapolis’ 13 municipal courses. The move could displace at least some of the current operators while giving the cash-strapped city a financial boost.
To qualify, managers must agree to pay for capital improvements, which in recent years have been the city’s responsibility. In addition, the administration is encouraging those seeking to run courses that don’t need major upgrades to make upfront cash payments.
The potential shakeup comes at a tough time for the golf business, which suffers from a glut of private courses and a shortage of players.
But for potential course managers, the purse is enticing. The Indianapolis courses collectively have $5.3 million in annual revenue. The city will award 10-year contracts, and one company may win them all. At least one out-of-state operator says it will bid.
“It’s a big opportunity for somebody,” said Tom Cooprider, who has managed the Sahm course in Castleton the past 15 years.
Cooprider is one of a handful of local golf managers who’ve held contracts since former mayor Steve Goldsmith privatized the courses in 1993. The city has renegotiated and rebid individual contracts since then, but never offered them as one package. “We’re trying to get the best combination of much-needed capital improvements, and more money to pay for golf and the park system in general,”
said Michael Huber, Ballard’s director of enterprise development. The deadline for bids is Aug. 14.
Coincidentally, 11 of the contracts expire at the end of this year, and Winding River expires at the end of 2010. Huber said the city is taking advantage of the timing to make requirements and financial terms more consistent. But he insisted the new approach doesn’t mean Ballard is itching to hand the 12 courses to a single company.
This is a subject I know more than a little about. In 1993 and early 1994, I did considerable research on the city's privatization of golf courses. Then Mayor Goldsmith's administration treated the golf course privatization contracts as contracts for "personal services" and did not bid them out. There was a big dispute at the time whether the Goldsmith administration was violating state law by not bidding out the contracts. Although the IBJ article talks about a deadline for "bids," it appears that Ballard is following the Goldsmith model treating the contract(s) as not having to be bid out.
What makes a difference? When contracts are for personal services, it is much easier to shake down potential contractors. It happens all the time with the city's legal work. That work is routinely channelled to the city's big law firms which contribute the most to the winning mayoral candidate.
Indeed, then Mayor Goldsmith's financial reports at the time showed that every golf pro who won a contract to run a city golf course had made significant contributions to the Goldsmith campaign. Is there reason to expect anything less from the Ballard administration?