Coon Rapids approves golf course expansion

An expansion project at the city’s Bunker Hills Golf Course has been authorized unanimously by the Coon Rapids City Council.

Architect Kevin Nordby of Herfort Nordby, LLC, presents the plan for the expansion project at the Bunker Hills Golf Course to the Coon Rapids City Council.

Architect Kevin Norby of Herfort Norby, LLC, presents the plan for the expansion project at the Bunker Hills Golf Course to the Coon Rapids City Council.

The council has accepted preliminary plans and cost estimates and approved the project budget for a new driving range/practice green, short-game area and learning center building.

At the same time, the council approved a lease agreement with GolfTEC Minnesota (GTMN Partners, LLC) to operate the new golf instruction learning center at Bunker Hills.

Under the project timetable presented by Tim Anderson, golf pro/manager, to the council Jan. 7, construction on the 1,340 square-foot learning center will begin as soon as possible in the spring with a July completion date planned.

But the lease agreement with GolfTEC goes into effect April 1.

According to Anderson, GolfTEC will use the golf simulator room at the Bunker Hills Golf Course Clubhouse for its lessons until the new learning center opens.

The new driving range/practice green and short-game area will be staged to minimize disruption to play on the golf course, Anderson said.

But shifting the locations of four existing tee boxes on the course to make room for the expanded practice facilities will take place this spring, he said.

Actual work on the driving range/putting green/short-game area won’t occur until late summer/early fall so they will be ready for use when the 2014 golf season begins, Anderson said.

Anderson’s goal is to create an “epicenter” for golf instruction and a world class facility that will attract more customers to the course, he said.

According to Anderson, the existing driving range and practice green were designed and built for an 18-hole golf complex, not the 36-hole facility that is now at Bunker Hills.

“There is too much activity and a lot of traffic which has overwhelmed the area, made it unmanageable and resulted in people waiting,” Anderson said.

Expansion and renovation of the general practice area will provide for more teeing ground and additional practice opportunities, he said.

“The learning center could place Bunker Hills Golf Club at the top of the list for quality instruction in the state of Minnesota,” Anderson said.

The expansion will bring in more revenues, including a membership program for the new short-game area, he said.

“Additionally, it would benefit the city by creating a regional destination for golf instruction and growth of golf programs,” Anderson said.

The hope is that with the new amenities the course will be able to attract national tournaments, according to Anderson.

“They provide the missing pieces to the puzzle,” Anderson said.

The council hired golf course architect, Herfort Norby, LLC to prepare the preliminary plans and cost estimates and Kevin Norby presented those at the council’s Jan. 7 meeting.

The expanded driving range will accommodate more people and have a concrete tee line 10 feet wide and 10 feet deep which will allow the turf to continue to grow, according to Norby.

The new short-game area will be placed in the northwest corner of the driving range for practicing bunker shots, chips and wedges to three target greens in the driving range, Norby said.

“It will be a multi-purpose facility,” he said.

The new practice green will be located south and east of existing practice green area by using open space south of the cart path and north of the snack shop, Norby said.

Some trees will be removed, but that will be more than made up for by additional plantings, Anderson said.

The estimated cost of the project is between $835,000 and $965,000, but the new facilities are anticipated to generate additional annual revenue of $55,000 and $100,000 annually through an increased practice sales, rents and various additional instructional revenues to repay the debt, according to Anderson.

Indeed, the council after approving the plans and the GolfTEC lease gave authorization to staff to add up to $900,000 to a general obligation bond issue that the city planned to sell this week.

The bond issue, now totaling $6.95 million, includes funding for the 2011 and 2012 street reconstruction programs and refunding of water revenue bonds sold in 2004, said Sharon Legg, city finance director.

But Legg said the golf project bond issue would actually total some $800,000 for the public purpose and would be paid back from golf course revenues.

The balance of the project cost involving a private entity, that is GolfTec, would be paid for through an internal loan from the special assessment fund, she said.

To operate the learning center, which will have two bays and a welcome area, the council approved a lease agreement to run through Sept. 30, 2018 with GolfTEC.

Having GolfTEC on board will provide a “high quality, world class golf instructional facility,” Anderson said.

“It’s a high tech business,” he said.

Jim McNaney, city manager of GolfTEC Minnesota, presented the GolfTEC proposal to the council Jan. 7.

“We are excited to be partner with the city in what is a unique opportunity that has not been done nationally before,” McNaney said.

The goal is to create destination appeal for the Bunker Hills experience, a wide range of instructional programs for the diverse customer base and a unified team of professionals – GolfTEC and Bunker Hills staff – to offer great service to the client base, according to McNaney.

The learning center, which will be equipped with state-of-the-art teaching technology and staffed with full-time, year-round PGA golf professionals, is intended to drive traffic from GolfTec’s four other Twin Cities improvement center to Bunker Hills, McNaney said.

GolfTEC has 165 instructional centers in the U.S., Canada, Mexico and Japan.

But Bunker Hills would be the only GolfTEC location in Minnesota – it has four other sites – that would be located on a golf course, McNaney said.

According to City Attorney David Brodie, the lease agreement has an option for another five years beyond 2018.

GolfTEC will pay an initial rent of $500 a month which will increase incrementally to $1,500 a month during the initial term of the lease, Brodie stated in a memo to the council.

In addition, GolfTEC will contribute to the utilities costs and pay a portion of the property tax generated by the agreement (up to $4,800 per year), while the city will receive 5 percent of the revenue from all golf lessons given by GolfTEC at Bunker Hills as well as revenue from golf club sales, he wrote.

The lease agreement provides that GolfTEC will host at least one client event at Bunker Hills and both GolfTEC and Bunker Hills will promote each other in marketing on websites, in print, signage, golf expos, etc., Brodie wrote.

According to Brodie, the city has the option to terminate the lease if the project bid prices are 25 percent greater than current estimates to build the learning center and/or driving range renovation.

That percentage is typical under state contract agreements, Brodie said.

The learning center will be located at the north end of the driving range in a wooded area that is part of the golf course property leased by the city from Anoka County, which operates Bunker Hills Regional Park, according to Anderson.

The learning center design will look like the new clubhouse, Anderson said. “It will be aesthetically appealing,” he said.

Councilmembers were enthusiastic about the project and the lease agreement with GolfTEC.

This is a unique concept that will add so much to the golf course and the city, according to Councilmember Bruce Sanders.

Mayor Tim Howe has visited a GolfTEC facility and it has an “amazing computer system,” he said.

Councilmember Paul Johnson does not play golf, he said. “But this is a fantastic idea that will increase value to the course and make it a signature feature of the city,” Johnson said.

Peter Bodley is at peter.bodley@ecm-inc.com

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