Twinsburg -- It might be time to take the $6 million Gleneagles Golf Course club house project off the back burner and make it a reality.
That was the message Twinsburg Mayor Ted Yates gave to City Council during a Sept. 13 work session.
"It's about adding another asset to the city's quality of life," Yates said. "If a full-blown restaurant is not successful, we can scale down and not have full-time employees."
Yates suggested the project -- to feature a banquet center, restaurant and pro shop -- go out for bids in November.
Construction could then begin next year.
And he reminded Council that a city-owned business doesn't have the same pressure to generate revenue that a private business has.
"There is a certain profit a business needs to make," he said. "For us, if we can run a successful facility, create a good product, create jobs for our community, we don't need one dollar of profit."
Councilor Brian Steele acknowledged that something needs to be done about the more than 20-year-old club house that was supposed to be a temporary structure. However, he said he is unsure that owning a banquet center is good for the city.
"I have reservations about getting into the restaurant-banquet biz," Steele said. "Most of the things I've read in business and golf magazines, golf courses would be better off tearing down the restaurant and banquet centers."
Steele suggested building something smaller. The current club house sells beer and sandwiches from a snack bar.
Councilor Bill Furey said it wouldn't be financially practical.
"We already have $400,000 [spent] in design and professional services," Furey said. "We'd almost have to start over and build two buildings."
Furey, like Yates, said he wants to revert to the original design from Perspectus Architecture.
The split-level, 19,000-square-foot clubhouse would be constructed with an eye toward natural elevation changes and sight lines at the course, and feature a new pro shop; banquet seating for 225 people; a restaurant and bar with seating for 40; kitchen; locker room area; lobby with fireplace; and a large patio.
Plans call for an area underneath the clubhouse that will house golf carts.
Yates said the project includes $1.6 million for demolition of the current structure and site preparation and $4.3 million to construct and furnish the new club house.
The project was put on hold in March after voters failed to approve two rezonings of contiguous, city-owned parcels of land to R-5 single family cluster district.
The city expected to make between $1 million and $1.6 million from sale of the property, which would have been used to partially fund the club house.
The two issues will be back on the ballot in November, but Yates said he isn't counting on the money. He proposed that the city finance the nearly $6 million project with bonds, which are currently available at a 3.5-percent interest rate.
That would make the city's annual payment about $323,000 per year.
"But we need to do our due diligence," said finance director Karen Howse.
Howse emphasized her commitment to find the lowest interest rates for bonds, and to review them periodically.
She said the city's debt has been leveling off.
"Some has expired," she said.
Yates, Furey, Gleneagles PGA Professional Bryan Mineard and another member of the city's golf advisory board looked at Cranberry Highland Golf Course in Pennsylvania, a city-owned course with a bar and grill and banquet facilities for 125.
Furey said he recommended the course because of the similarities to the proposed Gleneagles project.
"The city doesn't subsidize the course," Furey said.
Yates estimated an annual profit from the proposed restaurant at $135,000, and $136,000 from the banquet facilities. Golf cart rental would add another $155,000 per year.
Furey said he believes those estimates are low.
Even with the profit, the city would still need to supplement the golf course budget to the tune of about $372,000 -- about the same as without the new club house.
Furey added he also likes the idea of hiring a banquet manager before construction is complete to work on pre-booking the banquet rooms.
Councilor Maureen Stauffer said she is "nervous to hire employees full-time to run the restaurant and banquet facility."
Citing a lack of similar facilities in the area, Yates said he is confident a restaurant and banquet center would be put to good use.
This year, there were 30 leagues a week that played the course.
"They're all talking about where they're going to go after," Yates said.