In partnership with the West Ada Recreation District, the city of Meridian will take control of Lakeview Golf Club operations.
On Oct. 8, the recreation district will close a deal with Lakeview Investors to take over the ownership group’s lease of the city of land the course lies on. The district will fund around $60,000 upgrades to the course — including some to its irrigation system — before transferring control to the city in September 2023, according to the leasing agreement.
Proponents of the deal hope the new arrangement will reduce conflict that has arisen in the past when leasing of the property to private investors.
In February 2019, lessee Erik Oaas discussed with city officials a land exchange between the two parties that would allow Lakeview to build high-end condos and front sprinkler repairs that are yet to take place, Meridian Press previously reported. After upgrades to the course and questions about its future surfaced, a deal never came to fruition.
Now, the city hopes to put that uncertainty behind it.
“There’s been significant pushback both from elected officials and some of the community to use public dollars on an asset that’s managed by a private entity that’s a for-profit entity. So this transaction actually brings everything back into the public realm with those public dollars,” said district board chair Shaun Wardle at city council’s Aug. 4 meeting.
The recreation district was first established in 1971 to build and manage the public pool south of downtown near Franklin and Meridian roads, but Wardle says projects like that usually cost taxpayers in the long run, even if fees can keep pace with operating costs, because of the costs of initial construction and renovation. He hopes the golf course will flip that script, providing services to the public and bringing in more money than the district invests.
“Typically a golf course will create excess capital funds,” he said. “Typically, we see the aquatics assets reverse that.”
In later talks on the deal, Councilman Joe Borton was skeptical, saying the city needs to go into the agreement with its “eyes wide open.”
“This whole process is such a long-term play that I would expect it quite frankly not to cash flow and not to make money,” he said at council’s Aug. 18 meeting.
Mayor Robert Simison agreed the city shouldn’t bank on immediate revenue from the course after meeting with Wardle over the last few months about the deal. Still, making money off the course is “not the point,” he said, comparing it to public parks that the city pays for.
“Lakeview Golf Club is an important part of our community, and I am committed to ensuring this asset is properly maintained and operated with needed improvements made to the course,” he wrote in a letter posted to the city’s website.
The district will manage Lakeview over the next three years via a planned, six-month contract with course-management company KemperSports. However, the city will immediately take on the financial gains and losses the course enjoys or suffers, according to the leasing agreement.
The tentative deal includes buying out investors’ lease along with the course’s clubhouse, machinery, carts and liquor license.
The course’s history dates back to 1978 when Cherry Lane Village subdivision developers handed the reigns over to the city to manage. Operations have changed hands twice since the, but the city has owned the property ever since. Once finalized, the October deal will end a 15-year run with its current lessee.