The city of Warren heard from three people interested in taking over the Old Avalon Golf Course, which is owned and maintained by the city.
The candidates presented their proposals during a special finance committee meeting Wednesday evening.
Anthony Natale, a graduate of the Boler School of Business at John Carroll University who received an MBA from the Williamson College of Business at Youngstown State University, was the first candidate to give a proposal. He gave a detailed PowerPoint presentation showing statistics and projected expenses and income over the next five years.
He said one of the biggest weaknesses of Old Avalon is it requires a $250,000 capital investment to bring it back to viability.
Natale is a lifelong Warren resident and said he first learned how to play golf at Old Avalon, and has been an avid golfer for 24 years. He wants to manage the golf course for the city, but is not interested in buying it.
“When this opportunity came up, I had already written a plan for a golf course in Portage County. Got the numbers together, and here we are,” Natale said. “That golf course means too much to too many people to let it become houses or another type of commercial venture.”
He suggested turning the golf course into a city park and hiring two full-time city employees to run it. He said profits could be split, with 90 percent going toward an untouchable permanent improvement fund used solely for Old Avalon Golf Course and other city parks, and 10 percent going to the executive director.
Natale said he could be hired as the executive director, with two employees working for him: John Tester as the golf course superintendent and Tom Partoleno as a PGA teaching professional. He said Tester has been the owner and superintendent of Hidden Oaks Golf Course for more than 22 years, and Partoleno is the owner of Parto’s Golf and Learning Center in Coitsville.
His PowerPoint presentation showed the golf industry is growing despite the tough economy, especially in the over 55 demographic, and 16 percent of Warren’s population is 65 and older. It also showed that most golfers play a majority of their rounds within 5 miles of their house and have high brand loyalty to their home course.
Natale showed a suggested pricing structure for the course, with gradual increases over the next five years and discounts for seniors and city residents. He also suggested several marketing ideas, including changing the name to Old Avalon Park Golf Course, targeting leagues, and offering lessons and clinics.
Natale’s presentation also included an estimated profit statement that showed the course losing approximately $322,000 the first year because of an initial capital investment, but making nearly $200,000 in 2017. He said since his salary would be based on profits, he would make nothing the first three years and less than $20,000 in 2017. Those figures are based on purchasing golf carts and power equipment. A second scenario with the course renting golf carts and power equipment shows it making a profit every year for the next five years.
Marc Beechy is not sure if he wants to manage the course or buy it, but he is sure of his expertise in the field. He spent more than a decade as manager and vice president of the the Forest Oaks Golf Club in Southington.
“The golf industry is an interesting business. You have to wear a lot of hats. You do a lot of different things during the course of the day. And, the course needs someone like that to be able to bring it back,” Beechy said.
Scott Karabin, a PGA professional also presented his proposal during the meeting. However, he was not willing to share many details of his proposal because the media was present.
Warren Finance Committee Chaiman Al Novak said whether Avalon remains a golf course or not, city officials want to assure Warren residents that they’ll attain the most value for the property.
“We must make sure that we get the best opportunity, accept the best offer if it is up for sale,” Novak said.
The city will meet again next Wednesday, where they could be voting on an ordinance whether to lease Old Avalon or sell it.
The city is also exploring possible legal action against the golf course’s former management company, OAG, LLC., for breach of contract. The company owes Warren $320,000 in back lease payments.