The Louisville Metro Council passed a measure last month to raise greens fees in an attempt to sustain all of the city’s 10 struggling public golf courses. But Mayor Greg Fischer’s administration is planning to move ahead with a request for proposals for outside golf course management.
The city received 13 responses to its request. Officials expect evaluation of the proposals to be done by the middle of November, with any successful contracts in place by the end of the year. No council members will serve on the evaluation committee, city officials said in a recent letter to Council President David James.
If the city does not decide to award contracts for any golf courses based on the RFP, Metro Parks and Recreation will run those courses until the administration selects a management company.
The council’s fee hike measure last month won 22 of 26 votes, and made it a requirement to employ a golf pro at each city-owned course. The pros are also allowed to submit proposals to manage public golf courses.
Councilwoman Cindi Fowler, of District 14, led the effort to increase greens fees with the legislation passed in October. Most of the city’s 10 courses have failed to break even or make a profit in recent years.
She is skeptical that outside management companies would help the courses.
“It’s just important that we don’t block ourselves in with a management company that is going to come from another state and take the revenue from our courses,” she said.
One organization that submitted a proposal is straying from the script: the nonprofit Olmsted Parks Conservancy said it wants to convert Cherokee Golf Course into park land and merge it into the adjacent Cherokee Park.
Fowler is critical of Olmsted’s decision to publicly share its proposal, and to run a survey asking about during the RFP period. She called the moves “reckless,” and suggested the nonprofit is trying to sway decisions.
Olmsted president and CEO Layla George declined to respond directly to that criticism. She said the proposal and survey are meant to give people an alternative to the binary choice of either closing a course or keeping it open.
“There’s nothing on the other side,” she said. “So this is a way for us to sort of gauge public opinion and say, ‘OK, if you want something else on these golf course properties, then make your voice heard.’”
So far, more than 1,200 people have responded to the survey, including current and former golfers, as well as those who don’t golf. The vast majority of them are in favor of turning Cherokee Golf Course back into a park, an Olmsted representative said.