REDMOND — Juniper Golf Course could receive a significant addition in the next few years — a pavilion for events such as weddings and parties.

The city is considering the addition of an events center to its municipally-owned golf course, with the help of a potential $550,000 investment from CourseCo, the company that operates the course.

The Redmond City Council discussed the idea, along with extending the golf course operator’s contract through 2024, at its meeting Tuesday night. Councilors want to study the cost and impact of a pavilion but won’t do that until they extend CourseCo’s contract. They are not expected to make a final decision on the contract until October.

City staff have already discussed the plan with the city’s parks and golf committees in July.

Mayor George Endicott said he likes the idea of a pavilion at Juniper, as Redmond could use a large, upscale event space.

“We had my folks’ 75th anniversary wedding party out there (at Juniper), and we were right on the edge of capacity,” he said after the meeting. “If you had some sort of a pavilion, it might have made it easier.”

City officials want to know more about the cost and possible design of a pavilion before endorsing the idea.

“Even though we think the idea of a pavilion is great, there’s a lot of things we don’t really know,” Redmond Parks Director Annie McVay told the city’s parks committee at its July 29 meeting. “We want to take a year and do some market research to understand, will it make money? Is it really needed?”

According to city documents, CourseCo said it would invest in one of three potential additions to Juniper: a covered driving range, a golf simulator or an events pavilion. A city committee determined that the events pavilion, despite costing hundreds of thousands more than the other two options, would bring in more revenue.

“The conclusion reached was that the first two investments (covered range and golf simulator), while interesting, will not significantly change the economics or the culture and feel of the facility,” a city document stated. “Only the event pavilion has the ability to bring catalytic change (by increasing both golf and non-golf revenue) — albeit at a high cost.”

City staff stated that because the pavilion would attract more guests to Juniper, it could increase the rounds of golf played by 1,000-1,500 annually. In 2018, 32,550 paid rounds were played at the municipal course, which is 13% more than the amount of rounds played three years ago.

Michael Sharp, CEO and president of CourseCo, said a pavilion could allow Juniper to host large weddings and golf tournaments that its clubhouse restaurant doesn’t have the capacity for yet.

“We believe that we have such a special venue and piece of property in Redmond, that an event pavilion, along with the golf course, would be very attractive,” he said.

The cost of a pavilion can “vary wildly” depending on its size and other aspects, Sharp said, but he estimated the total cost could be between $400,000 and $800,000.

City staff also believes that CourseCo has successfully operated Juniper since the city hired it in 2011. City documents state that while more golfers are playing rounds at Juniper, similar courses have seen declines of 9% in rounds played. The course operator also poured $100,000 of its own money in 2016 to renovate Juniper’s clubhouse restaurant, The View. This added a new pizza oven, furniture, TVs and 10 taps of beer.

And although the city’s $4 million debt from building Juniper in 2003 won’t be paid off until 2033, McVay said the golf course’s small profits shouldn’t expect to shoulder the cost of the debt. The city currently pays $407,000 each year in debt payment, until 2026 when the annual payments will shrink to $350,000.

According to city documents, Juniper’s revenues outpaced expenses by $15,223 in the 2017-18 fiscal year, a bounce back from deficits for four straight fiscal years between 2013 and 2017.

“Expecting the golf course operations to generate the resources to help with the debt service … is just not reasonable,” McVay told the parks committee in July. “A lot of people think it should be making more money, but actually CourseCo is doing a really good job out there.”

Redmond’s parks and golf committees approved a five-year extension for CourseCo’s contract in July. However, the Redmond City Council won’t vote until October, and it will have the final say.

After the council was told Tuesday about the potential for an events pavilion at Juniper, Councilor Jon Bullock agreed with city staff that a pavilion could help increase revenue.

“What’s clear is that golf courses that are able to generate a profit have an additional revenue center that Juniper does not have,” he said. “The restaurant facility can not serve the events that people want at a golf course, it’s not large enough, doesn’t have enough capacity.”

Fellow Councilor Jay Patrick said he wanted to know exactly what the proposed pavilion would look like before any money was spent.

“I definitely would like to hear how they’d do it, and who they’d do it with, before they jump,” he said.

Endicott said he was impressed with CourseCo’s management of the course, despite the sport of golf declining nationwide.

Sharp said he hopes the city will extend the contract with his course operator.

“The relationship between the city of Redmond and CourseCo, it’s been fantastic.”

In other action Tuesday, the council unanimously approved an annexation of 940 acres along the city’s southeastern border, previously owned by the Oregon Department of State Lands. The land will be used to expand the Deschutes County Fair & Expo Center and add large industrial projects.

— Reporter: 541-617-7854, jhogan@bendbulletin.com

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