A division of the nonprofit National Golf Foundation is on tap to assist Burbank officials as they work to turn the struggling DeBell Golf Club around.
The golf subcommittee, which was formed to review the financials of the city-owned DeBell course following a $2-million bailout package last month, held its first meeting this week and plans to continue conversations with the nonprofit’s National Golf Foundation Consulting division, said Chris Daste, the parks and recreation director, who also sits on the subcommittee.
“They are well known in the industry and are very unique, as they are a nonprofit,” Daste said.
Several organizations stepped forward to help the city bring the golf course back into the black, but given the foundation’s background, “they seemed like a good match,” he added.
Daste called the meeting on Wednesday productive and said the subcommittee would be in touch with the National Golf Foundation to discuss the process for agreements with the city, along with other details.
Daste expects the subcommittee to review the firm's proposal once more before sending it to the City Council for review.
A special City Council meeting to discuss DeBell has been scheduled for 6 p.m. on Aug. 25. Daste said he is hopeful the subcommittee will have the details needed for the council to discuss the matter at the meeting.
The National Golf Foundation has worked with cities such as Carlsbad and Alameda, and with Georgia state parks, Daste said.
“[The foundation] have a huge list of references,” Daste said. “Some we thought were applicable to us and some were out of state; we wanted to get a general analysis of what was done. All their references came back excellent.”
Daste added, “Right now, they are the only group we are looking at.”
The foundation studies the latest trends in golf, providing research and other support to companies and associations in the industry, according to nonprofit’s website.
“Everybody has unique problems, but the golf industry in general is struggling,” said Ed Getherall, a senior project manager for the foundation, which reached out to Burbank after DeBell’s woes hit the media.
Due to the overbuilding of courses in the 1990s and less discretionary income, activity levels are down across the board, Getherall said.
“There's lots of competition and lots of price discounting — the perfect storm affected the industry,” he said. “There are an increasing number of courses finding they are operating at a deficit, but it doesn't mean they are all struggling.”
As for DeBell, Getherall said operations, management, programming, marketing strategies, personnel and the physical traits of the course all will be thoroughly reviewed.
The proposal, available on the city's website, outlines seven tasks that need to be done to increase the number of rounds played at DeBell and bolster financial solvency.
“Sometimes when we get to the ground, it is different than how it was portrayed,” Getherall said. “Sometimes there are six or seven or eight things they can do to move the needle in the right direction. Sometimes it does require a change in the structure of the operation.”
A presentation to the City Council would be made once the report has been finalized, Getherall said.
“There are always recurring themes and we like to say we've seen it all,” he said, “but we find that every time we do one of these, we may find something we haven't seen before.”