Superior National Golf Course needs some new direction, more marketing and an infusion of capital dollars. This was part of the message brought to Cook County Commissioners this week. WTIPs Jay Andersen has this story.
Tourism is down, the county lodging tax is flat, golfers are playing fewer rounds and Superior National Golf Course needs a big influx of marketing and capital investment dollars. Those were some of the issues brought before the county board at Tuesday’s meeting. Four golf course spokespersons backed by a room full of supporters made a preliminary case for financial support from the county.
The representatives said Superior National is a huge destination attraction for Cook County. Its finances however need to be stabilized, a new long-term, non-political and non-profit management needs to be put into place and finally the course needs to be operated to fulfill its original purpose – to draw tourists to the county. Superior national spokesman Mark Sandbo outlined the goals.
Sandbo: We believe that this structure will maximize the golf course’s potential to fulfill its original purpose. Marketing will be increased by at least $100,000 a year, and such marketing will be coordinated with the rest of the county’s marketing efforts by the Visitor’s Bureau. There will be a dedicated levy to provide funding for future capital improvements to ensure that the golf course keeps pace with quality destination golf courses elsewhere. And third, if the new non-profit is successful in increasing rounds and the course generates a positive cash flow, such additional funds could be dedicated to the county-wide brand marketing. This brand marketing will not only benefit the tourism economy, but will also make Cook County more attractive to retirees, telecommunicators or businesses considering moving to Cook County.
Sandbo was joined by Jan Sivertson, Sally Nankivell and Mike Prom in presenting Superior National’s needs and solutions to commissioners through a PowerPoint presentation and subsequent lengthy question and answer period. Board Chair Fritz Sobanja wanted to know if this was a request for funding and if so he wanted more details and specifics.
Sobanja: I ask the question, how much are these scaffold improvements, these improvements? What are they going to cost? Where’s the breakdown in this, you know? We’re talking about spending taxpayers’ money here, OK? Where are the numbers you’re going to spend, and then the projection of, where’s the return on this? You’re going to spend so much, where are you numbers of return? You make a plan, a business plan, and it should show you whether or not it’s profitable or not to do this.
Commissioner Bob Fenwick said they always knew Superior National wanted money from the 1% sales tax, but some of the other revenue suggested needed closer scrutiny and closer board involvement.
Fenwick: The discussion about the 1% most recently included Superior National Golf Course. It’s in there. What that number was, we weren’t sure of. I’ll move right straight to the chase here. I fully support spending 1% money to reestablish what is a tremendous asset for Cook County. The rest of the dollars are going to need to be talked about more openly, for my purposes, for doing due diligence. None of that money is going to be appropriated unless I see a 10-year business plan, minimum, who’s going to be the leasee if, in fact, we do the leasing, a new management plan for the golf course; all those things. When that happens, then I think we can talk about bringing up that money.
Commissioners agreed to have Sobanja serve as point contact with the golf course committee to keep the channels of communication open while more detailed financial, management and business models are being developed for future board consideration.