Revenue growth at Lions Club cooling

The Lions Club Municipal Golf Course can be seen in this News-Times file photo.
The Lions Club Municipal Golf Course can be seen in this News-Times file photo.

After several successive years of revenue growth at Lions Club Municipal Golf Course, the trend is starting to cool as 2023 draws to a close.

At the start of the year, members of the El Dorado Parks and Playgrounds Commission learned that revenues were up by 6.5% in 2022 at Lions Club, following increases of nearly 2% in 2021 and a whopping 34% in 2020.

During a regular EPPC meeting Thursday, Ken Goudy, commission chairman, reported that revenues have dipped 6%, nearly $17,700, so far this year.

Save one year, revenue at Lions Club has steadily been climbing since 2015.

Revenues came in at $217,490 in 2015, dropped drastically to $120,000 in 2016 and climbed to $198,872 the following year.

The upward trend continued in 2018 and 2019, with revenue coming in at $203,712 and $215,439, respectively.

With the COVID outbreak in 2020, golfers in search of outdoor activity with plenty space to socially distance flocked to LCMGC, driving annual revenue up from $215,439 to $288,576.

The EPPC has been working for the past several years to help boost activity and revenue at Lions Club.

Commissioners and city officials have said the golf course is a service to the community and is not meant to be a money-maker but they have taken steps to close the revenue-expenditure gap at the facility.

The El Dorado City Council has kept a watchful eye on financial activity at the golf course for the past several years, particularly after a 2016 state legislative audit in which the city was flagged for "continuously carrying over a negative, (annual) balance for the golf course."

The audit finding prompted the council to transfer an additional $106,000 from the city's general fund to beef up the Lions Club budget to make sure the facility would remain in the clear for the year.

At the time, council members noted that the practice had been ongoing because the facility had been operating in the red for a number of years.

They also learned that while the golf course was under budget for 2016, income had remained low and the chasm between revenues and expenditures continued to widen.

Council members and the EPPC considered cost-cutting measures and ways to help boost revenue, including hiring LCMGC managers in 2017, eliminating the long-held practice of contracting with a golf professional, and advertising and promoting the facility, respectively.

The drop-off in play in 2016 was partially attributed to competition from other golf courses in the area and complaints by golfers of an unwelcoming atmosphere and policies and rules, such as a strict dress code, that were enacted by the golf pro at the time.

Other measures that have been implemented within the past several years at to help boost revenue at and improve LCMGC include reducing some of the fees to play at the golf course; purchasing equipment to better maintain the grounds and improving facilities -- including an existing, public restroom on the north end of the golf course --; adding a second public restroom on the south end of the golf course and an adjacent park with basketball courts; and building a new pro shop, golf cart barn and workshop/storage shed to protect equipment and allow staff members to perform repairs and maintenance indoors and out of the elements.

Goudy said Tuesday that record highs with late-summer temperatures affected play at Lions Club in August and September.

Revenue topped out at $30,405 in August and $30,714 in September, compared to $33,282 and $38,861, respectively, in August and September of 2022.

"In August and September, the heat really put the whammy on us, income-wise. Revenue is down 6% out there," Goudy said.

Commissioner Karen Hicks suggested that heat may not have been the only contributing factor for the decrease in play and Goudy reiterated that "we had record heat out there this year."

Through October, revenues came in at $267,917, down by a staggering $17,657 at Lions Club, compared to the first 10 months of 2022.

Total revenues for 2022 totaled $312,174.

Just before noon Tuesday, monthly revenue totaled $11,014 at Lions Club, according to a credit card/deposit analysis provided by golf course manager Danny Carelock.

Monthly income at LCMGC came to $15,101 in November of 2022.

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