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Burbank officials take a swing at new operator for DeBell

Burbank officials take a swing at new operator for DeBell
Austin, Texas-based Touchstone Golf will be the new operator of the DeBell Golf Course in Burbank for the next five years. (File Photo)

Burbank officials are hoping the city’s latest investment in the DeBell Golf Course will be its last.

The Burbank City Council voted unanimously on Tuesday to have golf course management company Touchstone Golf be the new operator of the par-71 course and clubhouse, which has been struggling financially the past few years.

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Council members had discussed awarding Touchstone a contract to become the new operator of DeBell during a meeting on Nov. 27 but decided to hold off on making a decision until company officials could provide additional details about their five-year financial forecast for the facility.

Touchstone, based in Austin, Texas, will be in charge of the day-to-day operations at DeBell for the next five years and will have an option for an additional five years.

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The city will pay Touchstone $8,000 a month to get the golf course back on its feet. Any revenue generated will go back to the city and be used to pay for the deferred maintenance projects around the facility, including replacing the irrigation system and updating the driving range.

The company replaces Scott Scozzola, whose family had operated DeBell since 1971.

Scozzola opted to end his contract with the city in March, which obligated the city to hire several operators to oversee various operational components of the facility.

Mark Luthman, Touchstone’s president, said the company is projecting annual revenue at the course to be between $2.5 million and $3 million over the next five years.

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He added that DeBell is projected to generate between $300,000 and $400,000 of profit every year over the next five years.

Although the municipal golf course will have a new operator to try and revive it, Burbank will have to provide Touchstone with a financial boost initially.

Judie Wilke, the city’s parks and recreation director, said the city will be fronting the management company $1.35 million to cover the expected operational expenses for the first six months of operation.

The city will also purchase new landscaping equipment for Touchstone crews to use, which will cost an additional $460,000.

Wilke said Touchstone officials are confident they will earn back the operational costs incurred during the first six months.

Though she was interested in what it would take to convert DeBell into a passive park, Vice Mayor Sharon Springer said having a golf course on the property is the right fit.

“It’s a big deal to change the use of that golf course,” she said. “I really believe that it’s the highest and best use [of the property]. It’s not time to change the use of that. There’s a very real chance that it’s going to at least break even.”

Councilman Bob Frutos concurred with Springer, adding that a lot of money has been invested into DeBell and that the facility needs to be protected as a recreational asset to the city.

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