DUNEDIN — The town’s preliminary transition plan to take control of operations at Dunedin Golf Club is in full swing, with staff planning to manage the 95-year-old asset from June 2023.

While city commissioners will have several opportunities to provide input and oversee the takeover, including hiring an architect and contractor to oversee its restoration, they have learned many details about the timeline. proposed by staff during a work session on June 7.

City Manager Jennifer Bramley told commissioners that the “essential” main focus of the transition should be on improving the golf course – drainage, irrigation, greens, tees and fairways – to reflect improved Donald Ross standards. Ross is a legendary golf course architect who has designed around 400 courses across the country, including the Dunedin Golf Club.

City finance staff indicated that it would take approximately $4 million to complete the project. Funding sources include $2 million in American Rescue Plan Act money, with the city providing its own internal loan of $2 million. The city also enlisted the help of its former director of parks and recreation, Harry Gross, to apply for a historic preservation grant of $500,000.

“Our sources of funding must be dedicated to the course itself and the operation of the golf course,” Bramley said. “After that we can incorporate improvements to the clubhouse itself and how it looks. Our priority is the operation of the golf course.

She said questions had been raised on social media asking: ‘Why are you upgrading this course just for the number of people playing golf?’

She said the course is an asset to the town and is directly tied to property values ​​in that area.

“The current state of the course, although it has generated more rounds than it ever has, is deteriorating; these people are going to leave, (because they) have a lot of choices,” explained the city manager.

She said the city has come to “understand that restoring Donald Ross improves the number of rounds played and it becomes a tourist attraction”.

The second phase of the restoration project may include improvements to the maintenance area and the pavilion. If even more funding becomes available, further improvements could be made to the driving range, cart paths and bridges.

Commissioner Maureen Freaney said that although the clubhouse restaurant looks old and outdated, she understands that ‘it’s about golf, and so I think our first priority has to be golf. I agree 100% with this, this is where we need to put our money first because play the golf and they will come.

However, Mayor Julie Ward Bujalski noted that the restaurant should also be seen as a valuable asset in attracting customers. She suggested “that we evaluate things, to try to improve this clubhouse as well”.

She noted that there is a clear benefit to trying to complete clubhouse improvements at the same time as restoring the course.

“You attract a better food and drink group and they will have a say,” she said. “I think there’s a lot of potential there and growth in sales if done right.”

She said a “good restaurant open seven days a week” would be a good revenue generator. “It can’t keep looking like this, it just can’t,” the mayor said. “We won’t attract a restaurant operator who is worth what we want, if we leave it that way.”

The current transition plan includes issuing an RFP for a contract with a golf course architect by July 2022, and another RFP in November 2022 for a contract with a food and beverage operator. drinks, which can take over in June 2023.

Capital improvements will be designed by the end of 2023, with the golf course then closed for several months from April to November 2024 for the restoration process. During this time, the clubhouse dining room will be open.

Vince Gizzi, the city’s director of parks and recreation, said the current plan is for the city to assume control of all golf course operations in June 2023 and operate the Dunedin Golf Club as a corporate fund. by October 2022 for fiscal year 2023.

The City Manager advised that the City will conduct a nationwide search for a Division Manager to operate the course with an expected hire date of October 2022. The hired candidate, who will report to the City Manager, will be required to have experience both in the restoration and operation of a golf course

Gizzi noted that as part of the Dunedin Golf Club takeover, the city will likely forgive a $284,000 Paycheck Protection Program loan and treat it as a grant instead of a loan.

Bramley noted that commissioners and the public will have several opportunities to intervene and provide input on the city’s plans to operate the golf course at future business meetings.