The Hesperia Golf & Country Club's doors will remain open.
The Hesperia City Council made the decision to maintain the course as a regulation 18-hole golf course at their Tuesday night meeting.
Hesperia purchased the par-72 course in May 2010 for a total of $4.2 million to obtain the associated 675 acre-feet of water rights. (The course cost $1.6 million and the water rights cost $2.6.)
But although the city was mostly looking for a large amount of water rights in a single purchase, they also got a 54-year-old course that, according to golfers and a consultant hired by the city, had been allowed to go into serious decline since its heyday as part of the PGA tour from 1957 to 1961.
"I think it's clear that it was ran into the ground when we bought it," said Councilman Paul Bosacki. "This was sort of a salvage operation with an opportunity to purchase the water rights."
But the golf course will take real money to get back into shape: It could cost the city up to $3 million over the next 5-to-10 years to restore the course to a "reasonable quality," according to consultant Gene Krekorian of Pro Forma Advisors.
"The current model is not sustainable" to maintain the course, he said, "at an acceptable level."
Specifically, the course was in "poor condition" at the time of its purchase by the city, Krekorian said in his report, and the clubhouse "is poorly designed, has limited remaining useful life, and nominal salvage value."
The golf course's prospects can be improved, but its unlikely to ever fully return to its glory days, he said.
"All the courses, up here are struggling, for the most part," said Krekorian. And that's unlikely to change, even when the economy recovers, he said: "The fundamental demand for golf has declined."
No matter what way the city council decided to go with the course, it would prove a drain on revenues. The cheapest option, leaving it an 18-hole regulation golf course, will cost the city at least $404,200 annually, according to report prepared by Krekorian. Turning it into an 18-hole executive course, for instance, would cost an estimated $687,400 annually.
Keeping the course as an 18-hole regulation course was the option overwhelmingly preferred by residents, spoke out at a series of meetings held this summer and answered surveys at the city's website.
Of the 361 people who attended the community meetings, only six argued the course should be used for something other than an 18-hole regulation course, according to city spokeswoman Kelly Malloy, who organized the community input meetings.
"They consistently agreed that the course should remain a golf course," she said.
Results from the 421 completed surveys were similar, as were comments from members of the public at Tuesday's meeting.
"The golf course looked absolutely terrible" a year ago, according to Jerry Moore, former manager of the Apple Valley Country Club. The Hesperia Recreation and Park District, which has managed the course for the city of Hesperia since its purchase, "is dedicated to the course now and it's beautiful."
Krekorian and council members likewise praised the job done by park district staff on the limited budget provided for them.
"This course brings a lot of money into the city," said resident Richard Jordan. "We need that money."
Others voiced concerns that the golf course would draw off funds needed for other services.
"We need those funds for law enforcement and infrastructure," said former mayor Rita Vogler.
"Keep the golf course and lose the firefighters?" said resident Kim Jones. The city has placed a referendum on a $85 parcel tax on the ballot to help fund the city's fire services. "That don't look good."
Although council members appeared generally sympathetic to the wishes of golfers and property owners, they voiced concerns over the expense generated by the course during a time of economic hardship.
"Is it gonna pay for itself?" Bosacki asked. "Are we going to have keep supplying money year after year to keep it in the same shape? ... If the park district can run this without the city dumping money into it, that's what I'd favor."
"I was the one who was probably the most vocal against the purchase of the golf course," said Mayor Mike Leonard. "Everybody needs to understand that we do not have the money right now to throw into it."
"Apple Valley made a very bad deal" when the town purchased its local golf course -- and initially failed to secure the associated water rights, said Councilman Russ Blewett. "Hesperia made a very good deal."
In the end, the council voted unanimously to keep the course open and to offer a long-term contract to manage it to the Hesperia Recreation and Park Department.
City staff will negotiate out the exact terms with park district staff in the coming weeks and the city council and park board will vote on the agreed-upon terms after that. The next regular meeting of the Hesperia City Council will take place on Sept. 6 at 6:30 p.m. at Hesperia City Hall, 9700 Seventh Avenue.
Beau Yarbrough can be reached at 760-956-7108 or at email@example.com. Follow us on Facebook at Facebook.com/Hesperia.Star.