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Report suggests changes at DeBell

A draft report by the firm brought in to help turn around the struggling DeBell Golf Club suggested infrastructure upgrades and a concessions revamp for what it otherwise called a “quality municipal golf course.”

In the report to a golf club oversight committee created by the City Council, the nonprofit National Golf Foundation suggested reducing the number of trees and upgrading the infrastructure to make the course more playable and attract more golfers.

But beyond the upgrades, Councilman Dave Golonski said, “it’s nothing radical.”

Golonski and Mayor Jess Talamantes — who called the troubled, city-owned DeBell Golf Foundation “too big to fail” last year when the city approved a $2-million rescue package — sit on the oversight committee, which is slated to take up the report today before sending it to the City Council for review.

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Parks officials said the golf course had been losing about $300,000 annually in recent years.

As part of the financial bailout, the city set up stricter oversight and eventually agreed to spend roughly $24,500 to bring in the National Golf Foundation to help turn around the club.

But the nonprofit found that DeBell generally compares well to its immediate competition. Its golf course is shorter, but the unique green and modern clubhouse set it apart, according to the report.

Among the recommendations that Golonski said stood out to him was the need to work more closely together and for more “golfer-friendly” aspects at the concessions, including grab-and-go-style food.

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The Clubhouse Grill “appears to be operating a restaurant that happens to be located at a golf course rather than a golf course food and beverage concession,” according to the report.

The foundation also noted that the course is neither visible nor well marketed, with signage to the property “virtually nonexistent.”

The total marketing budget for DeBell is below standard, according to the draft report.

Representatives for the National Golf Foundation declined to comment on the report pending its review by the golf oversight committee.

The National Golf Foundation determined in its report that staffers at DeBell have “appropriately observed that increasing event, outing and tournament golf business will be the key to regaining the level of income that has been lost in recent years, requiring enhancements to marketing and improved cooperation between concessionaires.”

Golonski said consultants determined that the course should be able to sustain about 60,000 rounds, compared to the roughly 51,000 rounds played now.

The physical conditions of the course were also among the items discussed in the roughly 130-page report. Among them:

• The irrigation system is outdated and, although it is not urgent, likely will need to be either replaced or upgraded in the coming years. Improving the irrigation system could also help reduce the large utilities expense for DeBell, estimated at about $400,000.

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• There are too many trees on the DeBell golf property, affecting the condition of the course in some places with too much shade and impeding the ease of play, with very narrow holes making the course difficult for golfers to score well.

• The driving range is a good revenue source for the facility but is in need of some upgrades, including to the range building. Some form of covering to allow for greater volume of use in overly hot or otherwise inclement weather was also suggested.

Jan Bartolo, deputy parks director, said in an email that the City Council could discuss the matter in early February.

The draft report is available on the city’s website, through a link on the Golf Fund Oversight Committee agenda. Visit https://www.ci.burbank.ca.us and click on the “meetings and agendas” tab on the left side of the page.


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