In a few weeks, The City of Brigantine will hopefully receive a nice collection of proposals from professional golf course operators such as Billy Casper Golf and former Philadelphia Eagles QB; Ron Jaworski. A total of 9 potential management companies expressed early interest in leasing the Links at Brigantine Golf for up to 24 years.
Over the years, The ‘Links’ has seen a consistent, annual revenue decline from a high of approx 2 mil, to about half that as of August 2014. Many local residents and those who frequent the course are dismayed by that revelation. On the other hand, some, such as Brigantine Firefighter and Real Estate Agent; Mike Lange Jr., feel the city is quite capable of running the course by itself with no need for outside experts.
Fiscally conservative taxpayers in Brigantine disagree with Mr Lange’s assessment. Local resident; Lee Bucci, was not amused to learn that Mr. Lange not only is pushing for a long list of golf course demands, but that Lange also has an estimated Fire Department salary of $106,000 per year (not counting benefits & pension).
According to a Brigantine Beachcomber story written by Mr. Bucci earlier this year, the Brigantine Fire Department work schedule is also quite attractive.
Bucci says: Brigantine firefighters such as Lange, work one 24-hour shift every fourth day. The firefighters’ 91 days a year is further reduced by up to 10 days of vacation each year, plus sick time and personal days. This schedule allows for members of the Brigantine Fire Department to have additional careers, and the majority of them do.
Lange, an avid golfer, took the time to write up this list of demands that he believes, are vital to the continued enjoyment of the course. The following is a very small portion of conditions that Mr. Lange would recommend:
- The golf course must continue to operate as an 18-hole course, currently as designed, with stated short-term and long-term improvements.
- The lessee may not use the contract as collateral to secure financing for the capital improvements.
- The lessee shall not erect any fencing of any kind to obstruct the existing views of those residents or taxpayers directly or indirectly associated with the golf course.
- The lessee shall own and operate their own equipment and hold harmless the City of Brigantine for any liability.
- The existing three golf leagues – Men’s Evening Golf Association (MEGA), Brigantine Women’s Golf Association (BWGA) and the Couples League – should continue to have locked-in or established fees for the first five years.
- There should be established rates for members, residents, non-residents, tournaments and golf packages for the first five years.
- Residents and taxpayers would continue to enjoy the luxury of walking dogs, riding bicycles, walking, jogging and running in the dawn and dusk hours at the golf course every day.
- The lessee would pay the City of Brigantine $125,000 in real estate taxes.
- The lessee would pay any and all portions of NJEIT and FEMA grant funding for the no interest and interest/principal part of any loans.
- The lessee would pay the existing mortgage in its entirety, around $2,000,000.
- The lessee would pay rent for golf and food/beverage (these should be separated).
- The lessee would pay stated fees on golf and food/beverage (again, these should be separated for profit sharing).
- The lessee would assume the line item listed in this year’s budget of $756,256.
- The lessee would pay stated fees for advertising on the City’s main domain page.
Mike Lange Jr.
From Gary Shea: I can’t help but feel bad for the taxpayers of Brigantine after witnessing the discussions that have taken place concerning the future of the golf course over the last two city council meetings. As probably the only resident of Brigantine that owns a golf business that operates locally, regionally and nationally, it is my humble opinion that neither the elected officials of Brigantine nor most (if not all) of the residents have any idea of what it really requires to own and provide oversight of the golf course.
In addition, most (if not all) involved in the conversation don’t seem to understand the difference between city drainage and golf course drainage, the difference between a ‘playable’ golf course and a ‘competitive’ golf course within the market, the difference between a golf course management company and a golf course ownership group, and the current state of the golf course business.
None of the residents who spoke seem to have any idea of how the RFP process works, what the ‘Green Acres Act’ is all about, the fact that the area’s casinos are not willing partners in the promotion of golf to their guests for any of the area’s courses, and the limited financial resources that the current management group has available to operate and promote the golf course.
However, to me, the scariest assessment to Brigantine taxpayers should be the continued ‘wait and see’ recommendations that some of the residents and politicians seem to think will solve everything. This is a certain path to financial doom. Optimistic expectations are not always a bad thing, but in this instance, it is absolutely, positively the wrong course of action. These people are similar to residents of Brigantine who stayed on the island, thinking that Sandy would never hit, or the member of the infamous Donner party who probably said, “Don’t worry, folks, the snow will stop any day now!”
After 12 years of city ownership, the Brigantine Golf Course is currently $2 million in debt, losing revenue since 2008, losing money the last two years – and that’s not including the debt payments.
Given the current state of the golf course industry (since 2003, the number of active golfers has decreased and the number of golf course closings continues to outpace new course openings, a trend expected to continue for at least another 10 years), the golf course industry is not a business that Brigantine taxpayers should want to see their tax dollars invested in.
Residents of Brigantine should demand that the golf course be taken out of the hands of the politicians and put in the hands of a qualified, competent golf course ownership group who would be willing to make the investments recommended by the current management company back in 2007. This will help make the golf course competitive within the area’s market and will attract golfers, tourists, future homeowners and investors to the city.