A year after the struggling DeBell Golf Club tapped into a $1-million loan designed to pull it out of the red, the course appears to be on the path to financial recovery.
The loan was part of a $2-million bailout package approved by the City Council for the municipal amenity that then-Mayor Jess Talamantes said was “too big to fail.” The National Golf Foundation was brought in to help turn the course around.
According to the latest financial data, it appears that the strategy is working, helped by a prolonged dry spell that has meant more playable days on the course, officials say.
As of May, DeBell's operating revenue was $1.78 million with expenses of $1.76 million, according to city records.
That's a flip from the same period in 2011, when operating expenses of $1.8 million were outpacing revenues of just $1.58 million. DeBell ended the 2010-11 fiscal year about $300,000 in the red. In 2009 the course lost about $397,000.
“It's looking better than a year ago,” said Talamantes, who sits on the golf oversight committee. “With all the changes, we're making progress. The numbers tell the story and the story looks good. We've been focused on this [for] a year and a half, we're fine-tuning the operation, getting more efficiencies out of it.”
Roughly $170,000 remains from the first half of the $2-million bailout package, said Jonathan Frank, an administrative officer in the parks department.
He added that he did not anticipate having to tap into the second $1 million that was set aside, although officials will re-evaluate things in the second quarter of this fiscal year.
The city's golf oversight committee — set up in the wake of revelations that the course was losing so much money — has been focused on increasing revenues and keeping expenses down, Frank said.
“We're not out of the water yet, but the fund is doing significantly better than the last two years,” he said.
The warm weather and lack of rain, coupled with promotions to bring more customers to DeBell, have contributed to the performance boost, he added.
“Group-On and Costco promotions are generating more rounds, and there were less rain days, so we can operate the course more and generate more rounds of golf,” Frank said.
A long-range plan is being developed and includes further examination of how a single operator could manage the course.
And with a new marketing budget, Talamantes said he hopes more customers will be attracted to the course and the restaurant.
He was also pleased with Sunday's disc golf debut at the par-3 course, which he said attracted about 100 people.
Officials estimate the sport, which is growing in popularity, could bring in up to $50,000 in additional revenue to DeBell each year.
“I believe it's going to be a good fit,” Talamantes said.