PORTLAND – A Bath-based company is offering to take over management of the city’s municipal golf course, but any decision will have to await a business plan ordered by a City Council committee.

Harris Golf, which owns or operates seven golf courses in Maine, said in an unsolicited proposal to city officials that it wants to take over Riverside Golf Course’s operations to restore the 27-hole facility to “profitability and historical accuracy.”

“Simply put, Riverside GC has the potential to be one of the finest municipal course facilities in all of New England,” Harris Golf said in a nine-page proposal that includes depictions of a renovated clubhouse. “What it lacks — long-term capitalization capability, golf-specific operational savvy, management-level understanding of Riverside’s potential — Harris Golf can and will provide.”

The package doesn’t provide a specific financial proposal, but Jeff Harris, president of Harris Golf, said the terms of a deal would depend on the length of the lease.

For instance, he said, Harris Golf could pay for the extensive course restoration the proposal envisions, but only with a long-term lease that would allow the company to recoup that expense.

Councilor John Anton, who heads the council’s Finance Committee, said Harris Golf’s proposal is “premature.”

Last week, he said, the committee asked its staff to come up with a business plan for the course, noting that the city needs policies on basic questions such as whether it wants the course to be profitable or wants to keep costs for golfers as low as possible.

“There’s no foregone conclusion” on whether that plan might include a recommendation for private management, Anton said. “A discussion of management is premature when you haven’t discussed your goals and strategies.”

Anton said he’s open-minded to the concept of outsourcing management of the course, but he said another committee member, Councilor Jill Duson, opposed having a private company run Riverside.

Duson could not be reached Wednesday, and the other member of the committee, Councilor John Coyne, was absent from last week’s meeting.

Harris said he made the proposal because his company met with city officials more than two years ago to discuss the idea and he never heard back from anyone. He decided that a proposal sent to the council might stir more discussion.

“Nobody ever got back to us, and meanwhile the city continues to struggle with its budgets and the golf course is a victim of major deferred maintenance,” he said.

Riverside was designed in 1935 by Wayne Stiles, who Harris said designed more than 60 courses and redesigned another 50. Over the years, the city has altered the course substantially, he said, by adding trees, removing bunkers and reducing the size of greens, all to cut maintenance costs.

“A lot of the architecture is gone,” Harris said, and his company’s goal would be to restore the course to a design closer to Stiles’.

Harris said Riverside’s nine-hole South Course also needs work, including construction of a small clubhouse. Golfers there who need to go to the bathroom now use a port-a-potty, he said.

In addition, the course was opened before all of the bunkers in the design were installed, Harris said, so the company would want to finish the course by adding those sand traps.

Staff Writer Edward D. Murphy can be contacted at 791-6465 or at:

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