NORWALK, Conn. — There’s “proof of demand” at Oak Hills Park golf course, an 18 percent increase in rounds for July, Oak Hills Park Authority treasurer Joe Andrasko told the Board of Estimate and Taxation (BET) last week.
BET Chairman Ed Camacho called Andrasko’s financial report “pretty good news” and said, “it sounds like you’re looking at all the right things,” sentiments that Mayor Harry Rilling agreed with. Andrasko said the Authority needs to study the results from its sale of unlimited passes this year to make sure the course is not becoming an “exclusive club.”
In February, the Common Council changed the terms of the 2005 loan to OHPA to make the interest rate zero, retroactive to Fiscal Year 2017. The yearly payment on the loan, then about $2 million outstanding, was eliminated in favor of collecting $2 per round of golf monthly beginning July 1. The Authority will also make an annual payment of 1 percent of its audited annual gross golf revenue.
Andrasko said 6,100 rounds were played in July so the payment would be $12,000.
Cart revenue is also up, by 34 percent. The operating intake was $160,000 in June
“Good trends,” he said, pointing out that more rounds means more carts but also “people who would normally walk take a cart when it’s hot.”
The Authority’s $200,000 line of credit with Norwalk Bank & Trust was paid down to zero on July 15, the earliest it’s been in his three years on the Authority, he said.
“There have been years where we’re at November paying it down,” he said. “That is our last line of defense through the winter, to, when we’re not generating revenue, be able to make it through the lean months.”
The Authority got a “quick hit” early on by selling season passes, about $108,000, he said.
The unlimited passes were $1,400 for a resident and $1,600 for a non-resident, allowing play seven days a week. For play Monday through Friday, the passes were $1,100 for a resident and $1,300 for a non-resident.
So, food for thought: “What is the overall price point for the initial fusion of revenue versus the cannibalization that we’re getting from the out months, i.e. July, August, September, as people kind of reach payback levels of their initial investment? Was the price point quite right? Or are people really getting a good deal?” Andrasko said.
The question is are the members getting value, or a “deep, deep discount”?
The other question is, “whether we’re pushing this into more of a exclusive membership club, which is not its intention,” he said. “We want this to be accessible to all Norwalk, and we want to make sure that people can get tee times, that people aren’t locked out from prices, who can’t make an initial $2000-3,000 investment.”
About 100 unlimited passes were sold, he said.
“I’m curious to see how you guys have approach that for next year. Because obviously, people are trying to get their money’s worth. And that’s why you cannot get a tee time in that place right now … which is a good thing but people are obviously using their unlimited value,” BET member Troy Jellerette said. “And the other thing, the course is in great shape.”
OHPA was awarded a $1.5 million state grant in 2015 and went on to renovate the park.
BET member James Frayer, at the Aug. 3 meeting, asked Andrasko if he saw any pitfalls that the City should be leery of in the next couple of months.
“I think the greatest concern that I have is a turn in demand driven by flu season beginning, Andrasko said. “But our rounds have been solidly 20 percent above prior year and that’s after the full reopen…. the demand is there and Norwalk wants to golf. It’s a great sign but as you know there’s a return to flu season plus COVID, if people do start kind of domiciling and resting in place, you know, that could be the great greatest threat that we have.”