Golfers walk towards the 16th tee at Westview Golf Course in this file photo from June 2021. | J. Robert Gough
QUINCY — Quincy has one of the best public golf courses in the Midwest, and Quincy Park District officials know a major expense is ahead if it hopes to maintain the 27-hole course for future generations.
Finding a way to pay won’t be easy.
Rome Frericks, executive director of the Park District, and David Morgan, director of golf, met last month with representatives of EC Design Group, a West Des Moines, Iowa company specializing in complete golf and irrigation design commercial. They “picked their brains” on the options for Westview and got a rough quote for their services.
Frericks said it would cost about $75,000 to $80,000 for EC Design to help him through the design process and use GPS mapping software to determine how a new irrigation system would be done.
As for installing the irrigation system, Frericks said the market rate today is around $2,000 per irrigation head installed. Westview currently has 726 irrigation heads on the course, and Frericks said that number could rise to 900 with the installation of a new system.
Frericks told the Park Board that early cost estimates were between $2.5 million and $3 million.
Frericks wants to give board options
Morgan and Frericks will meet April 14 with representatives from Hunter Irrigation, a Houston manufacturer.
“We’re just trying to bring a few different options to the board,” Frericks said. “I can’t call (a local engineering firm) for something like this. This is what these companies do for a living.
Frericks said a new irrigation system is not urgent.
“We just wanted this to be on the radar of board members. At some point, you don’t want to give them a tough choice to make,” he said.
Morgan recently told the Park Board that a series of lingering problems with the current system – coupled with its age – raise the need for an overhaul.
The existing double row sprinkler system was installed in 1991. The course then underwent a major overhaul on the front 18 holes, and irrigation was installed on all new tee boxes.
The Flowtronics pump station (near the water hazard on the fifth hole) was updated in 2002, and the central computer and satellites were updated in 2004. The sprinklers on the fairways of the 18 first holes were updated to 180-degree (instead of 360-degree) units in 2012 and 2013, and green side sprinklers were updated from 2015 to 2017.
Failures with PVC pipes occur once or twice a week
Frericks said the glue in the couplers connecting the PVC pipes failed in several places along the route. Morgan says these failures happen once or twice a week.
“You see the water, but you have to find the leak,” Morgan said. “The water may be here, but it found its way from somewhere else. You dig here, but then you find the leak is up there. They take a little time to fix.
Holes 1 to 9 have 257 irrigation heads, holes 10 to 18 have 271 heads, and holes 19 to 27 have 198 heads.
“It’s like road maintenance,” Frericks said. “You have to maintain (the sprinkler heads), but the average person doesn’t see them, so they don’t think they’re gaining anything.”
“You run a golf cart over a sprinkler head enough times, and they’re going to give and give. It’s just part of it,” Morgan said. “But that’s where things go wrong.”
Running a golf course in the Midwest without an irrigation system isn’t a good idea, Frericks said.
“In the Midwest, temperatures can reach 90, 95, 100 degrees. You can go weeks without rain,” he said. “The irrigation system is essential, isn’t it? Your season pass holders will start going to Hannibal or other places where (the course is irrigated). If you want to maintain the level of consistency and the product you produce for the consumer, absolutely irrigation is necessary.
“It’s a very good product right now. It’s been a few years,” Morgan said. “So it’s a must.”
Profits made in Westview stay in Westview
Frericks used the example of Indian Mounds Pool, which lost more than $57,000 in 2021. The Park Board voted in October to spend $173,000 on a filter for a pump at the pool. Roger Leenerts, chairman of the Park Board, said at the time that maintaining the city’s only public swimming pool is “a service to the community” and that the Park District will have to “take a financial hit”.
Frericks said the Westview Golf Course, along with the Art Keller Marina, is a “self-funding business”. The Park District does not use Westview profits on any of the city’s parks.
“Can Westview finance (a new irrigation system) itself? Absolutely not,” Frericks said. “Are you going with a tax increase? This will really bother people who don’t use the facility.
“People have been asking me for five, six, seven years how much money we make. They all thought it was in the parks,” Morgan said. “I hope I’ve educated enough people who know that their money stays here.”
The Park District moved its offices from the Emerson Community Center to a new home, the former River’s Edge complex on Bonansinga Drive, in the summer of 2013. A 10-year loan pays for the building.
“We could do it, but again, is it in the interest of our district? I don’t know,” Frericks said. “You know, that’s just another discussion we’ll have to have.”
Frericks referenced the Bill Klingner Trail, noting that 62% of ratepayers told the Park District in a survey that they would accept up to a $35 tax increase to continue the trail.
“We were able to do it for $19.82 (per $100,000 of a home’s assessed value at the time),” he said.
Morgan: Getting rid of the back nine to cut costs is not a good idea
Frericks said the use of $3 million from Park District reserves would reduce that account “to a minimal number.” Then you no longer have a bad day account.
“If you want 30,000 rounds to be played at Westview and the golf course to be self-funding, you have to,” he said. “If you don’t irrigate it, taxpayers may have to subsidize more in the long run. And once you lose someone from your golf course, it’s hard to get them back.
A previously discussed option was to get rid of the back nine to cut costs. Morgan doesn’t think that’s a good idea.
“We should close the top 18 on some days for ladies and juniors, we have back nine leagues, and we have top 18 leagues,” he said. “So now you’re closing (the bottom nine), and we’re going to lose revenue because of that. These nine holes are autonomous. Some people say it’s not, but it’s always crowded there.
“The future of golf is your young people and your new passholders. They won’t jump on the front 18 when they’re a new golfer,” Frericks said. “They’re going to go to the back nine, drop four or five balls, let people pass them and take their time without people driving behind their backs.”
Any payment option for the new irrigation system which includes the sale of holes 19-27 must be put to a referendum, as the amount of the property is more than three acres.
“If you don’t, you’ll lose it”
Frericks isn’t sure shifting the cost to golfers is a good idea.
“At what cost do you piss off your pass holders?” he said. “They’re going to say, ‘Are you going to sell me nickel and dime now? I go to Cedar Crest (Country Club in Quincy) or (Arrowhead Heights Golf Course in) Camp Point. At some point, yes, we have to increase the (18 hole rates). But what is this price? »
Frericks said the priority now is to speak with irrigation consultants first to get an idea of the cost of the project.
“Then the second part is to discuss the pros and cons with the full board,” he said. “It’s no different than buying a new car. Where does the money come from? Are we ready to fund it?
Frericks sees no downside, other than price, when talking about the irrigation system.
“Because if you don’t, you’re going to lose it,” he said.
“People are used to green grass and fairways, they look good,” Morgan said. “People are used to it. That’s what they expect to see there now.