The Cleveland City Council voted Monday afternoon to enter into a leasing contract with GSP Business Alliance of Morristown, Tn., in order to keep the Waterville Golf Course open.
Discussions were previously held regarding closing the golf course because of the amount of money its upkeep costs. Formerly 18 holes, the course was also downgraded to nine over the past few years.
One of the members of the course said, "18 holes will bring people in, nine won't.
" He noted that most golfers would not drive from out of town for such a small course and suggested expanding the course.
It was also noted the course has a problem with water drainage, which can lead to fungus on the grass.
A representative from GSP, Charles Morgan, told the council that HMS Golf, based out of Atlanta, would be responsible for the upkeep. The contract will begin March 1. He assured the council that the water problem could be fixed.
Mr. Morgan also said that all employees will be able to stay and current members will be able to keep their membership rates.
He said, "When we first walked on that golf course, we were made to feel welcome. That staff down there is fantastic." He said the staff and supporters had "been there through thick and thin."
He said golf pros from HMS would be available to give lessons and help organize junior golf.
He said, "Just getting people and interested and back, that's the key."
Before the vote, Mr. Morgan said, "Whatever happens, that golf course needs to stay open. It's a perk and a benefit to the citizens of Bradley County."
The lease is for a period of 10 years. The firm will pay the city $60,000 a year. The agreement includes all equipment, with the exception of golf carts leased by the city. The golf cart lease expires in August 2015.
Interest in the municipal course waned among golfers during construction on Dalton Pike between January 2010 and June 2013. The Tennessee Department of Transportation paid Cleveland $1.42 million for a piece of the golf course that was needed to widen Dalton Pike. The 18-hole course was closed April 1, 2010. On July 1, 2010, the nine front holes on the east side of Dalton Pike were opened for play while the back nine holes were rebuilt. The widening of Dalton Pike took the No. 10 and No. 17 greens, which caused the shifting of seven of the nine holes on the back nine. A new, high-tech irrigation system and pumping station was installed, as well as a new maintenance facility on the east side. All 18-holes opened for play in August 2013.
However, the course was hampered by some unforeseen events, the worst being the unusually cold temperatures in January and February of 2014 that killed the new Bermuda grass on the greens. Staff planted Bent grass on the greens last fall and it is doing well.
A company official said Monday that the greens are beautiful. “You guys have done a fantastic job of keeping it up. …We’ll keep that course in grand opening condition everyday.”
The Council reviewed four possible choices that included Option A. In that scenario, the city could continue current operations, strive to increase the number of rounds played to 14,000 and then reevaluate the facility’s performance in 12 month. If golfers returned to Waterville, the operations shortfall was estimated at about $100,000, instead of the $300,000 it costs the city now.
Two options were presented by GSP Business Alliance. Option B, selected by the Council, and Option C, which proposed a lease amount of $36,000 a year. In that case, the city would retain some of its maintenance equipment for use elsewhere in Cleveland.
Option D would have meant the full and complete closure of Waterville Golf Course. It called for winterizing irrigation systems, restrooms, clubhouse and maintenance building. It meant securing the buildings by covering all windows and glass areas to protect from vandalism. In addition, gate entrances would have been constructed and access along roadway would have been blocked with with utility poles. The onetime estimated cost of $15,000 associated with taking the golf course out of service and an annual cost of $5,700 for insurance.
Under Option E, the property would be transformed into a city park in which cart paths would become walking trails. The maintenance building and restrooms would have remained open. There would have been no cost savings with this option as there was no associated revenue stream to offset the $54,400 estimated cost of personnel to maintain the park.
The Council has been discussing the future of the course at least since April 2009 when more than 50 people, who were concerned about the future of Waterville Golf Course, packed the City Council Chambers. Those who used the golf course then were concerned the City Council would close the public facility. They said then that Waterville Golf Course was the only place many can afford to play and that it was used by retirees and students in the community.
About 50 golfers crowded into the Council Chambers again Monday and essentially made the same argument.