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Lakewood trustees express concerns about funding options for possible new RedTail clubhouse

John Streit hits golf ball Wednesday, April 27, 2022, at the driving range at RedTail Golf Club, 7900 Redtail Drive in the Village of Lakewood. The golf club will be building a new clubhouse later this year

Plans to move forward with a new clubhouse at village-owned RedTail Golf Club in Lakewood have run into a snag over who is going to pay for it.

A proposed option of using alternative revenue bonds, a form of long-term debt where an identified revenue stream is meant to pay back the loans but is ultimately backed by property tax dollars, drew pushback from village trustees and residents who worried that if RedTail didn’t show a profit, they would end up footing the bill.

“We’re concerned about an increase in taxes,” said Lakewood resident Cheryl Lockwood, adding that other residents remembered the tax hike when the clubhouse was first built 30 years ago.

The Lakewood Village Board is hoping to fast track a decision on the clubhouse, which would include a banquet space and bar, in part because of concerns about the facility’s condition.

“That thing is falling apart,” Trustee Brian Augustine said. “With what it looks like now and considering the cost of upkeep, it makes zero sense to continue using that same facility.”

The current structure, built in 1991, was meant to last 15 years but has been there for 30.

The village of Lakewood hopes to break ground this fall to build a new club house replace the current club house at the Redtail Golf Club, 7900 Redtail Drive.

The heating, ventilation and air conditioning system, all of its back windows, 20 metal support brackets for the roof, and some flooring would need to be completely replaced to maintain the current clubhouse, Village Manager Jean Heckman said.

During a recent fire inspection, the village was told the maintenance barn on site was fine for storage but unsafe for staff to work in for a long period of time, Village President Dave Stavropoulos said.

Despite praise for RedTail manager Kenny Goodwin and a busy events season, several trustees noted the variability in revenue the golf club takes in from year to year.

The golf club lost money in four of the last 11 years, which Trustee Ryan Berman said was not a good enough success rate to put residents’ money on the line.

“I would love for this to be a destination,” Berman said of RedTail. “But not on the backs of the village.”

Trustee Tricia Babischkin said the pandemic was an obvious culprit for the golf club’s poor showing in 2020.

Lakewood Village President Dave Stavropoulos reviews notes while the Village Board debates funding options Tuesday, April 26, 2022, for a new clubhouse at RedTail Golf Club.

Goodwin also noted that this year, more than 100 events are scheduled at RedTail, and even with a suboptimal facility, people still booked the site for events unrelated to golf, including an anniversary this past weekend.

Between capital improvement money drawn from current golf rates at RedTail and the estimated revenue from increased events at a new facility, that would be enough to make the annual payments, Heckman said.

The Planning and Zoning Commission also recommended at their latest meeting on April 18 that improvements for RedTail be funded through a private/public partnership. Other options included public financing with bids going to a general contractor or design-build firms, or a public/private partnership with a management company.

Stavropoulos said he felt the village staff had done “due diligence” in exploring all available funding options for a new clubhouse, which would allow the golf club to expand the number of events it can host.

“Now we are at the point of making difficult decisions for the future of RedTail,” Stavropoulos said.

The village needs to agree on how the project will be funded before issuing a request for proposals from architects, Stavropoulos said.

The stated goal at a special meeting earlier this month was for a new clubhouse to be completed by spring 2023, which necessitated a timeline of design proposals by midsummer.

RedTail Golf Club, 7900 Redtail Drive in the Village of Lakewood, on Wednesday, April 27, 2022. The golf club will be building a new clubhouse later this year

“The village doesn’t want to spend a bunch of money up front on design drawings,” village attorney Scott Puma said. “We want a quicker take off point for the project.”

If the Village Board does not approve funding options, officials would then have to consider whether to continue operations with the current building or explore selling the golf club, both less preferred alternatives, Stavropoulos said.

Previous boards had discussed selling the golf club and chose not to, Stavropoulos said, and the village spent $240,000 in 2008 for renderings for a new clubhouse that ended up not being used.

“I am in favor of investing in Lakewood, in enterprise and economic development,” Stavropoulos said. “I feel this is a unique opportunity having this business here. Nobody wants their property taxes to go up. But the money has to come from somewhere.”

The board agreed to hold another special meeting on RedTail in the coming weeks.