Politics & Government

Wanna buy a golf course? Wichita just put one up for sale.

Wichita considering selling MacDonald Golf Course

Wichita is considering selling MacDonald Golf Course. The par 72 course was once the Wichita Country Club in 1913. The Wichita Park Board has voted to solicit bids to sell MacDonald Golf Course..
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Wichita is considering selling MacDonald Golf Course. The par 72 course was once the Wichita Country Club in 1913. The Wichita Park Board has voted to solicit bids to sell MacDonald Golf Course..

A Wichita city board has decided to put the MacDonald Golf Course up for sale.

On Friday, the Park Board voted to seek proposals for the sale of the 146-acre course at 840 N. Yale in northeast Wichita, but with several conditions to ensure it remain a golf course and be open to public play indefinitely.

Under the proposed terms of sale, if the buyer decided to close the course or redevelop it for another use, the Park Board could buy it back for the original sale price.

However, Friday’s meeting didn’t really clarify how that could occur. The money from the sale is expected to be used on the other courses in the system and it remains unclear where the Park Board would get the money if it wanted to buy the course back.

Before voting to put MacDonald on the sale block, the Park Board heard from Mark Manning of the city Finance Department, who characterized the golf system’s financial status as “not particularly good.”

Rounds have dropped and net cash flow has been in the red: by $30,000 in 2016, $117,000 last year and an estimated $163,000 this year.

The golf system is tapping its reserves to stay in business, but that fund’s down to $278,000 when it probably should be about $1 million, Manning said.

If the Park Board does choose to sell the course, the city will keep the maintenance equipment, golf carts and pro-shop inventory, the request for proposals said. Also, the city won’t make any improvements on the course during the sale process.

In another addition to the original request for proposals, bids will need to contain a detailed plan for working with First Tee, a youth golf group that has committed to investing $1.5 million at the course for a driving range and golf training center.

The initial request for proposals required any buyer to honor the lease agreement the city has with First Tee, but on Friday, the Park Board added language requiring bidders to provide a specific plan for sharing the course with young First Tee golfers, many of whom are from low-income backgrounds.

Adding that the request for proposals was reassuring to Tom West, board president of First Tee.

“That’s our biggest concern is we have a relationship with the city, we know what that’s about,” he said. “We have no idea what happens when there’s a third-party owner. “

The Park Board technically owns the golf course because it was an independent elected body when the course was purchased for public use. Although its members are now appointed by the City Council and the city handles all the budgeting for the course, the Park Board can sell the property on its own initiative without council approval.

The board is also requiring potential buyers to guarantee that any future development at the course would have to be complementary to the golf experience. Some examples that have been mentioned include a mini-hotel that could rent rooms to players who come to town for tournaments, or a reception center where people could hold weddings or other gatherings.

The city putting the course out for bid is a response to a proposal by developer Johnny Stevens, a former PGA tour professional who built the successful Waterfront development in east Wichita.

Stevens grew up playing on the course, which was the original Wichita Country Club before coming under public control in 1948.

Running concurrent with the bidding process, the city’s Golf Advisory Committee will hold a retreat to look at planning for the future of the system with the current five courses, four courses, or three.

On Friday, the Park Board committed to waiting to sell MacDonald until the golf committee can have that retreat and issue recommendations for the future operation of the system.

The city is also moving toward redeveloping Clapp Golf Course in south Wichita as a different kind of park, with or without a golf presence, but that course closure is on hold pending completion of a master plan for the site.

Potential buyers for MacDonald will have until Nov. 23 to submit proposals, and will have to deposit 10 percent of their bid as “earnest money,” that they’ll get back if they don’t get the course.

The Park Board is expected to consider accepting a bid at its Dec. 10 meeting.

Dion Lefler; 316-268-6527, @DionKansas
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