BENSON — In a 7-0 vote, Benson City Council approved entering into a golf facility management agreement with OB Sports LLC at Monday’s council meeting.
OB will be managing city-owned San Pedro Golf Course as an independent contractor from Sept. 15, 2021, through Aug. 31, 2024.
“The idea is for them to manage this golf course with the least amount of cost to the city as possible,” City Manager Vicki Vivian said.
The city will continue budgeting the course with OB in an attempt to lower course expenses while increasing revenues every year, Vivian added.
Golf courses in Tucson and Safford have turned to OB Sports for similar services and report being happy with the outcome.
“They have greater buying power than we do, and will be making capital improvement recommendations to us,” said Vivian.
As OB steps into its management role at San Pedro it will be going through a two-week discovery period and will then bring its report back to the city with expectations and recommendations.
When Councilmember Toney King asked whether the golf course would continue to hold festivals and fundraiser tournaments, Vivian said she was not sure.
Mayor Joe Konrad said he supports the idea of bringing in a company with a strong background in golf course management. He sees it as a move the city needs to keep the facility viable.
“For the past six years we have been having this discussion over and over about the golf course,” he said. “We have seen it go from a championship level course that was pristine, down to what it is today, and it’s very disappointing.”
Konrad emphasized that the facility’s decline is through no fault of staff, as they lack the expertise needed to effectively manage a golf course.
Konrad said he wants to get the course back in shape, and believes this is the right time to take that action.
“I am 100 percent behind this,” he said.
Councilmember Lupe Diaz agreed, stating that OB Sports has “a proven track record” with a list of courses they have helped turn around through its expertise in management services.
“I think this is a good selection,” Diaz said.
Through an interview following the council meeting, Konrad said the city has been pouring about $400,000 a year into the golf course.
“Even though we budget for that loss, the quality of the course is declining, which is a concern to the city.”
Konrad said if that trend continues, it’s possible the city would be forced to close the course, something no one wanted to see happen.
“Since we don’t have the expertise on our staff to bring the golf course to the level we expect it to be, we needed someone from the outside to come in and manage it for us,” he said.
During Benson’s Aug. 9 council meeting, staff was directed to proceed with negotiations for management services with OB Sports.
“We recognize that it’s going to take a couple of years to turn the course around, but we need the experience and expertise they can provide us at a relatively good cost,” Konrad said.
The long-term goal is to reduce operating costs while improving the course enough to attract more players.
“This company has the negotiating power, resources and ability to run our golf course more efficiently, thereby saving the city money in the long run,” Konrad said.
In other business, the council rejected a proposal for a fixed-base operator at the Benson Municipal Airport. The rejection followed discussion about the need for more information regarding the proposal, as well as potential benefits the proposal would bring to the airport.
Councilmember Larry Dempster suggested that the city gather more information to bring before council.
Konrad agreed, stating that the proposal appeared rushed.
“It wasn’t put together with the proper vision in mind for the airport,” he said. “I think we need to review our (airport) master plan and bring this back before council.”
It’s possible the proposal for a fixed-base operator will be addressed in a future work session, Konrad said.
In a final agenda item, Benson Chief of Police Paul Moncada opted to have a meeting with the mayor, council, city manager and city attorney in executive session. No other information is available.
The next regularly scheduled council meeting is on Oct. 11.