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Andrasko offers upbeat Oak Hills report

A golfer in September at Oak Hills.

Correction, 11:36 p.m.: Season pass holders can book tee times eight days in advance.

NORWALK, Conn. — The Oak Hills Park Authority is well into the black as it gets through the winter, treasurer Joe Andrasko said Thursday.

Andrasko also said golf course season passes will be much more expensive this summer and that negotiations with a new restaurateur are 90-95% complete, with a vote on a lease expected next week.

Hint: A Dry Dock truck was seen in the parking lot recently.

As you’d expect, no rounds were played in February, given the snow cover, Andrasko told the Common Council Finance Committee. It’s “pretty par for the course” that the Authority uses a line of credit to pay its expenses through this seasonal revenue drought but “the difference this year is really in our cash balance” – there’s $267,000 in the bank, with no borrowing, he said.

Last year, the Authority had $18,000 in the bank and used $190,000 from its line of credit, Andrasko said.

“Just for context, that’s a $439,000 improvement in our cash position … year over year,” he said. “So that sets us up pretty well for entering into the 2020 season, which begins really in April, is when we start earning revenue again. And it sets us up very well for our 2022 fiscal year, which begins in July.”

The Authority voted to increase its season passes by 35 to 40% “on average, across all the different packages that we had,” and also reduced the length of time season pass holders can book a tee time in advance, from 14 days to eight, he said.

So they can book a round one day ahead of the general public and that, plus the more expensive pass price, should address complaints the Authority has heard about it being difficult to get a tee time, he explained.

The Authority earned $129,000 from season passes, about $10,000 more than last year, when 20 more were sold, Andrasko said.

“So the price increase did kind of reduce the demand, but we still were able to have a healthy enough demand to increase our revenue from those season passes,” he explained. “So I think overall, we’re kind of solving a couple of problems with the increased prices. And you know… the reasoning behind (the price increase) was really to bring it more up to market rate. After we’ve benchmarked it against just one course locally, that kind of has the same thing. And you know, the pudding is they sold.”

Andrasko said in August that about 100 unlimited passes were sold in 2020.  Oak Hills Park Authority Chairman Carl Dickens explained Friday that the Authority chose to only sell 28 season passes this year. Last year’s sale was done to generate an influx of cash, needed because the park had been closed due to the pandemic. It cost money in the long run as the Authority made less from tee times, they were “eaten up” by season pass holders, Dickens said.

The Authority has delivered a “high level” draft budget to the city, Andrasko said Thursday. With conservative estimates of expenses and reasonable assumptions on revenue, and an increase in debt service payments worked in, “we expect to have a positive cash position in total of $92,000 through fiscal year 22,” and this should mean the Authority can invest in the course. Given that the course has been “cash negative for years and years, that feels really good.”

FY21 is trending to be cash positive by about $70,000, “So it’s building upon that and kind of increasing it. And hopefully, it’s a trend that we can keep going as we go through the future fiscal years,” he said.

The Authority is benefiting from a restructuring of its loan in 2018, described at the time as a plan to keep it from continually coming to the city and “begging.”

Council member David Heuvelman (D-District A) asked Andrasko to explain the restructuring. The Authority pays a fee per round, Andrasko said. This year it’s $2 and it goes up 5 cents every year, so in July it will be $2.05.

“Then, once we have audited financials, we pay 1% of our gross revenue, our golf revenue to the city,” Andrasko said. “That amounted to about $15,000 as a lump sum payment in for fiscal year 20. It’ll probably be a little bit more for fiscal year 21, because we just had more rounds, we had more golf revenue. And hopefully it continues to increase.”

Then if the loan isn’t paid off in 2045, the Authority has to pay the balance, he explained.

Council Finance Committee Chairman Greg Burnett (D-At Large) asked if there has been any progress in finding a new vendor for the restaurant.

The Authority terminated its arrangement with Joe Montalto of Garnet Management Group in December.

“We are in the final final stages of authorizing the license agreement,” Andrasko said Thursday. “So I won’t go into too much detail because it’s not final yet. But we are entering into a license agreement. We expect to have it approved by the Authority at our next meeting next Thursday, a week from today.”

After the agreement is executed, the new vendor can evaluate the space to see what kind of investments it needs to bring it “up to their standards, just to make sure that it can be a successful rollout,” he said, commenting that April 1 is the “traditional start of a golf season” and, “It doesn’t seem like the restaurant will be 100% up and running and operational at that date. It may be a little delayed, but we want to make sure that it can be done right. And it can be done successfully.”

A NancyOnNorwalk reader recently spotted a Dry Dock truck behind the restaurant. The popular Dry Dock Bar & Grille was established in 1974 on Main Street.

“We are talking with them as they have great interest. As you may know they also handle Silvermine Golf,” Dickens said in a March 5 email.

Council member John Kydes (D-District C) said Thursday that previous restaurant lease agreements “definitely benefited the vendor as far as payments and overall ‘give’ from the city.” He asked Andrasko if this lease will be similarly good for the vendor.

Andrasko said, “No.”

The revenue will be about double and the “food service coverage for the entire course” will be “much better,” he said.  “We feel like it’s a much more equitable arrangement. And … it’s with someone that we really think can be successful in that space.”

Comments

3 responses to “Andrasko offers upbeat Oak Hills report”

  1. Bill Waters

    Great job Joe and Carl!

  2. Advid Golfer

    So they can book a round one day ahead of the general public and that, plus the more expensive pass price, should address complaints the Authority has heard about it being difficult to get a tee time, he explained. Come on wake up OHPA doesn’t matter if it’s 7 days 1 day or 30 minutes out those coveted tee times will be gone by the people with memberships. Great news for the out of towners ( Darien, New Canaan, Wilton ) getting the early times because a 30 plus year resident like myself can’t get one just like last year. It’s hard to believe that this golf course is catering to the wealthy .Shame on Norwalk

  3. Denise Drake

    Season passes should not be sold at Oak Hills! Doesn’t matter that it is “only” 8 days in advance, not the 14 like last year! It’s still sooner than anyone else can get a tee time. This is discriminating. As a 25 year resident pass holder I was only able to get a tee time before 3pm NEVER in 2020!!

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