PORTLAND – City Manager Mark Rees told a City Council committee Thursday night that the Riverside Municipal Golf Course will be operated by the city for the foreseeable future.

A consultant had said that the city could enter into a long-term lease with a golf course management company. But Rees said that leasing Riverside could jeopardize some of its other recreational uses, including cross country skiing, skating, running and walking.

“A long-term lease to a private operator could limit or eliminate these non-golf-related activities,” Rees said.

The city faced the decision on its municipal golf course after its consultant – National Golf Foundation Consulting – presented a report in November recommending that Portland adopt one of two management options: privatizing the course or continuing to operate it.

National Golf Foundation Consulting said in its report that the “market perception of Riverside is generally mixed, with positive reactions to the scenic, historic golf course, and negative reactions about Riverside and the city’s oversight of the facility. Recurring themes centered around the facility being dysfunctional, unwelcoming to players that were not regulars, and a private club for their members.”

After the report was released, golfers expressed concerns that a private company would increase greens fees and impose rules that would make the course less affordable and welcoming to the public.

Last month, Rees moved ahead with the city management option, transferring operation of the golf course from the Department of Public Services to Recreation and Facilities Management.

That department operates city-owned venues such as the Portland Exposition Building and Merrill Auditorium.

Rees said the city will hire a golf pro to run the pro shop, offer lessons and organize tournaments. Riverside has not had a golf pro on staff since early 2012.

“Our goal is to make the golf course as good as it can be,” said Anita LaChance, director of Recreation and Facilities Management. “This is a good fit for us because we are a customer service-oriented department.”

In addition to hiring a golf pro, Riverside has joined with three nearby courses to attract new players. Members of the Greater Portland Golf Association will receive passes to play at all of the courses and get to play in monthly tournaments.

LaChance said Riverside has developed a new logo to better market itself, and will require employees to sign a code of conduct and follow a dress code.

Riverside also will offer tee times online. Players will be able to book tee times from smartphones and even order food from the restaurant as they approach the ninth hole.

The city recently renovated lockers and bathrooms in the North Course clubhouse and is building a new clubhouse for the nine-hole South Course.

Councilor Nicholas Mavodones, a member of the Finance Committee, said he has heard from many residents, who expressed strong feelings about keeping the course under city management.

“I’m pleased with your decision to go in this direction,” Mavodones told Rees.

 

Dennis Hoey can be contacted at 791-6365 or at:

dhoey@pressherald.com