Brevard County Commission OK’s Issue of RFP To Outsource Golf Course Management

By  //  September 8, 2015

county competing against 26 other courses

Melbourne Beach resident Robert Hanak has been playing at Spessard Holland golf course since the day it opened. ( image)

BREVARD COUNTY, FLORIDA – With the three Brevard County-owned golf courses challenged to stay competitive with private golf clubs, the Brevard County Commission voted 4-1 last week to allow the county’s Parks and Recreation Department to issue a request for proposal to outsource management of the facilities.

Commissioner Trudie Infatini voted against the item, saying the county should do a better job of what it’s supposed to do, running county business. But other commissioners disagreed saying that running golf courses was best left to the professionals.

Last year the three Brevard County-owned golf courses lost $61,000 after paying for expenses to run the operations.

Operated by the county’s Parks and Recreation Department the three courses, the Savannahs on Merritt Island, the Habitat in Valkaria and Spessard Holland in Melbourne Beach have all lost money over the past several years, making it impossible for the county to make the needed upgrades and improvements that would draw more golfers to the courses.

The Brevard County Parks and Recreation Department manages two par 72 championship golf courses—The Savannahs at Merritt Island, above, and The Habitat at Valkaria, and a par 67 stretched executive course—Spessard Holland at Melbourne Beach. (Brevard County image)

“Our golf operations are either losing money or not making a profit, making it impossible for us to do any capital improvements” said Jack Masson, director of the Brevard County Parks and Recreation Department.

Currently it cost residents $29 to play 18 holes of golf at the courses. Golfers can play at some other county courses for less money with specials beginning at $20 for 18 holes.

Masson said the county is competing against 26 other courses and believes the county would be better off outsourcing (or leasing) the courses to an outside business that specializes in running golf courses.

Melbourne Beach resident Robert Hanak was enjoying a round of golf last week when he heard the news. He has been playing at Spessard Holland golf course since the day it opened.

The long-time resident said he wished they could keep the course they way it was, but understands the county’s situation.

“If they can make improvements and keep the same employees that would be great, but there are a lot of questions too. Will they raise rates?” he asked. “Will the company really make the improvements?”

In close proximity to the Indian River Lagoon and Brevard County’s southern boundary, the championship golf course at The Habitat at Valkaria is a haven for wildlife and golfers. (Brevard County image)

Masson said the request for proposal is very specific in what the county expects in return for a private company to take over all three courses:

“They need to provide us with how much money they expect to be able to pay the county along with any improvements they plan to make,” said Masson.

In addition, Masson said the proposal “strongly suggested” that any company that takes over would look at the current county employees working at the courses before hiring outside. If the employees are not hired, Masson said the county would do everything possible to find them new jobs within the county government.

Melbourne Beach resident Jim Macy said the county might want to consider adding a 60-day clause to the RFP that states if they don’t make improvements or run the course correctly, the county would take it back.

“Frankly, there are improvements needed. If a professional company can make a difference it might be a good thing,” he added.

Course employees are nervous about the change and declined to comment for the story.

At Spessard Holland in Melbourne Beach you’ll find enjoyable play energized by ocean breezes. (Brevard County image)

Figures from this year compared to last year tell the story, Masson said. When you look at revenues versus the number of rounds played, the money is just not there, he said.

• Habitat: 7.68% revenue increase with a 15% increase in rounds
• Savannahs: 10.39% revenue increase with a 16% increase in rounds
• Spessard Holland: 1% revenue increase with a 1% increase in rounds

Commission Chairman Robin Fisher said the county has done well outsourcing other public entities pointing to the successful move of Animal Control to the Sheriff’s Office and the transfer of County Acres for troubled children and teens to Devereux.

Masson said once all of the RFPs have been received, a special committee would review them and make a final selection to present to the Commission for approval.