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Cherokee Run has best year since city took reins in 2010

Connor Ball of Atlanta tees up Monday afternoon at Cherokee Run Golf Course. The city of Conyers spent close to $2 million since 2010 to rehabilitate the fairways and greens and fix drainage issues after the previous manager of the course failed to make improvements, causing the course to suffer. After selling close to 25,000 rounds of golf this past year, Cherokee Run will not receive money from the city’s general fund during for the upcoming fiscal year. (Staff Photo: Karen Rohr)

Connor Ball of Atlanta tees up Monday afternoon at Cherokee Run Golf Course. The city of Conyers spent close to $2 million since 2010 to rehabilitate the fairways and greens and fix drainage issues after the previous manager of the course failed to make improvements, causing the course to suffer. After selling close to 25,000 rounds of golf this past year, Cherokee Run will not receive money from the city’s general fund during for the upcoming fiscal year. (Staff Photo: Karen Rohr)

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Eddie Champion of DeKalb County lines up his putt Monday while his friend tends the flag. (Staff Photo: Karen Rohr)

CONYERS — Since taking over control of Cherokee Run Golf Club in 2010, the city of Conyers has transferred nearly $1.7 million to its operations. However, this upcoming fiscal year marks the first time since then that the golf course is expected to be self-sustaining.

Unless something unforeseen should happen that would physically damage the course, City Manager Tony Lucas said the city will have “no operating transfer from the general fund this year.”

According to documents provided by the city of Conyers, revenue at Cherokee Run has increased slightly and expenditures have remained relatively steady.

In fiscal year 2010-11 – the first year of operation under city management — the course logged $475,925 in revenue with $1.4 million in expenditures. That year, the city transferred $250,000 from the general fund to support golf course operations.

The following year, revenue came in at just over $1 million with $1.22 million in expenditures. In April of 2012, the city authorized the sale of timber to help pay for turf replacement on the greens, which according to the 2012-13 revenue report, amounted to almost $80,000.

Revenue in fiscal year 2012-13 was $1.1 million, with $828,943 transferred in from the general fund. Expenditures were $1.37 million.

This past fiscal year, the course realized $1.19 million in revenue with $1.29 million in expenditures and $600,000 transferred in from the general fund.

Since 2011, Cherokee Run has logged $3.8 million in revenue with $5.3 million in expenses.

Lucas said he believes the tide is turning at the golf course.

“This last year, fiscal year 2013-14, we played almost 25,000 rounds, which is phenomenal in this day and time, and with the golf industry the way it is now, it is quite a challenge,” he said. “To get to almost 25,000 rounds is really an incredible year for us.”

Lucas said 25,000 rounds of golf in a year is a target that Cherokee Run has been aiming at to be in the black financially. He said the publicly operated course is teed up to have an equally good – or even better – year this next fiscal year, which began July 1.

“We are finally recovering from our former reputation, which was really a black eye, when the previous management ran the course into the ground,” he said. “That’s extremely difficult to overcome, but I think we’re gaining quite a reputation now.”

The city of Conyers took over operation of Cherokee Run in 2010 after the U.S. Bankruptcy Court ordered the former operator, Jong Kyu Kim, to surrender the property to the city.

Kim had entered into a 50-year lease with the city in 2006 to operate the Arnold Palmer Signature designed course that was built in 1995 in conjunction with the 1996 Atlanta Olympics equestrian venue.

However, Kim struggled financially and did not keep the course up to standards. The quality of the course steadily declined, as did its reputation. By the time Kim filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy in November 2008, he owed $2.6 million in defaulted property taxes and rent payments to the city on the property.

A day prior to the bankruptcy filing, Conyers filed a lawsuit against Kim and Cherokee Run Country Club for a writ of possession and damages for its improper management of the golf course, failure to pay the city and the poor condition of the golf course.

Lucas said the legal process stretched out about 18 months. By the time the city took over the golf course, it was in such terrible condition that it required a complete overhaul of the course, including rehabilitation of all the greens and fairways, revamping the irrigation system, resolving draining issues and significant improvements to the clubhouse, among other fixes. Between attorney’s fees and reconstruction of the course, the city spent nearly $2 million, Lucas said.

Consequently, the city’s general fund has transferred $1.678 million to Cherokee Run since fiscal year 2011.

“For auditing purposes, we had to write down a certain amount annually which was supplemented from the general fund,” Lucas said.