The city’s Iron Eagle golf course came under new management July 1 and interim manager Chris Jacobson said the first couple of days have been long but enjoyable.
Jacobson is part of a two-man team that arrived from Landscapes Golf Group of Lincoln to study the finer points of the course and keep it in good shape until more permanent managers arrive.
“People have been really pleasant,” Jacobson said. “I’ve put in some long hours but I’ve enjoyed it.”
Ideally, Landscapes wanted to start the job Aug. 1, but the city council approved a contract calling for a July 1 start date.
Jacobson and agronomist Steve Merkel arrived and will stay at the course for a couple weeks or so, learning the finer points of the operation and getting better acquainted with the community.
Landscapes will immediately advertise for a golf pro and manager in a golf course superintendents’ bulletin and through the Professional Golfers Association, Jacobson said.
Three full time city employees were granted administrative leave Saturday, the last day the city managed the course -- Pro Brad Kai, Assistant Pat Adle and maintenance supervisor Dan Daly.
Jacobson said one immediate change at the course will be a new wireless Internet connection, separate from the city’s, but no major operational changes are planned yet.
“The first few weeks we’ll concentrate on the course and focus on keeping it in good shape,” he said. “We’ll study the irrigation and maintenance practices. We’ll be working off the city budget for a few months, but we’ll also start putting together a budget (for fiscal year 2012-13.)”
The arrival of Landscapes comes after long debates over the future of the course and six months of close considerations.
Struggling to make ends meet, the city-owned Iron Eagle course hasn’t made a profit since 1997. Last year, it suffered an operating loss of $178,000, plus a $250,000 annual debt payment for construction.
Mayor Marc Kaschke has advocated for an outside management firm. He endured open opposition from outspoken golfers as well as some council members. Kaschke twice had to cast the decisive vote to enter an agreement with Landscapes, after the 8-member city council spilt 4-4.
Landscapes manages 29 courses in the country and owns 11, eight of which are in Nebraska. Kaschke has expressed confidence that the company will do a good job.
Two years ago, Landscapes Golf Group did a comprehensive study of how Iron Eagle could be run more efficiently, but many of their recommendations weren’t adopted or didn’t bear fruit.
In a proposal to the North Platte City Council in March, Landscape’s national sales director Scott Tricker predicted it would take about two years for Landscapes to turn a profit at the course.
Landscapes will receive $60,000 a year to manage the course. Part of that management fee will be offset with lower labor costs, the company has said.