Finding reasons to install new irrigation system at Westview Golf Course is easy, but finding way to pay for it is not

Westview Hole 16

Golfers walk toward the 16th tee box at Westview Golf Course in this June 2021 file photo. | J. Robert Gough

QUINCY — Quincy has one of the finest public golf courses in the Midwest, and Quincy Park District officials know a major expense is coming if it hopes to maintain the 27-hole course for future generations.

Finding a way to pay for it won’t be simple.

Rome Frericks, executive director of the Park District, and David Morgan, director of golf, met last month with representatives with EC Design Group, a West Des Moines, Iowa, company that specializes in comprehensive golf and commercial irrigation design. They “picked their brains” about options for Westview and got a ballpark quote for their services.

Frericks said it would cost around $75,000 to $80,000 to have EC Design help through the design process and use GPS mapping software to determine how a new irrigation system would be done.

As for the installation of the irrigation system, Frericks said the market rate today is about $2,000 per irrigation head installed. Westview currently has 726 irrigation heads on the course, and Frericks said that number might be as high as 900 for installation of a new system.

Frericks has told the Park Board that early cost estimates are for between $2.5 million and $3 million.

Frericks wants to give board options

Morgan and Frericks will meet April 14 with representatives from Hunter Irrigation, a Houston manufacturer.

“We’re just trying to bring a couple of different options to the board,” Frericks said. “I can’t call (a local engineering firm) out for anything like this. That’s what these companies do for a living.”

Frericks said a new irrigation system is not urgent.

“We just wanted to get this on the radar of the board members. At some point, you don’t want to give them a tough choice to make,” he said.

Morgan recently told the Park Board that a series of ongoing problems with the current system — coupled with its age — raise the need for an overhaul.

The existing double-row sprinkler system was installed in 1991. The course then underwent a major renovation on the front 18 holes, and irrigation was installed on all the new tee boxes.

The Flowtronics pump station (near the water hazard on the fifth hole) was updated in 2002, and the central computer and satellites were updated in 2004. The sprinklers on the fairways on the first 18 holes were updated to 180-degree (instead of 360-degree) units in 2012 and 2013, and the green-side sprinklers were updated in 2015 through 2017.

Failures with PVC pipes happen once to twice a week

Frericks said the glue for the couplers connecting the PVC pipes is failing at several locations throughout the course. Morgan says these failures happen once to twice a week.

“You see the water, but you’ve got to find the leak,” Morgan said. “The water might be here, but it’s found its way from somewhere else. You dig here, but then you find the leak’s up there. They take a little bit of time to repair.”

Holes 1-9 have 257 irrigation heads, holes 10-18 have 271 heads, and holes 19-27 have 198 heads.

“It’s like maintaining roads,” Frericks said. “You have to maintain (the sprinkler heads), but the average person doesn’t see them so they don’t think they’re gaining anything.”

“You run a golf cart over a sprinkler head enough times, and they’re going to give and give. That’s just part of it,” Morgan said. “But that’s when things go bad.”

Operating a golf course in the Midwest without an irrigation system isn’t a good idea, Frericks said.

“In the Midwest, the temperatures can get to 90, 95, 100 degrees. You can go for weeks without rain,” he said. “The irrigation system is critical, isn’t it? Your season passholders will start going to Hannibal or other places where (the course is irrigated). If you want to maintain the level of consistency and product that you’re producing for the consumer, absolutely, irrigation is needed.”

“It’s a really good product right now. It has been for some years,” Morgan said. “So it’s a must.”

Profits made at Westview stay at Westview

Frericks used the example of Indian Mounds Pool, which lost more than $57,000 in 2021. The Park Board voted in October to spend $173,000 on a filter for a pump at the pool. Roger Leenerts, president of the Park Board, said at the time maintaining the city’s only public pool is “a service to the community” and that the Park District will have to financially “take a hit.”

Frericks said Westview Golf Course, as well as Art Keller Marina, is a “self-funding enterprise.” The Park District doesn’t use Westview profits on any of the city’s parks.

“Can Westview fund (a new irrigation system) itself? Absolutely not,” Frericks said. “Do you go with a tax increase? That’s going to really upset they people who don’t utilize the facility.”

“People have asked me for five, six, seven years about the money we make. They all thought it went to the parks,” Morgan said. “Hopefully, I’ve educated enough people who know they money stays here.”

The Park District moved its offices from the Emerson Community Center to a new home, the former River’s Edge complex on Bonansinga Drive, during the summer of 2013. A 10-year loan is paying for the building.

“We could do that, but again, is it the best interest of our district? I don’t know,” Frericks said. “You know, that’s just another discussion that we’ll have to have.”

Frericks referred to the Bill Klingner Trail, noting 62 percent of taxpayers told the Park District in a survey they would accept as much as a $35 tax increase to continue the trail.

“We were able to do it for $19.82 (per $100,000 assessed value on a home at the time),” he said.

Morgan: Getting rid of back nine to cut costs not a good idea

Frericks said using $3 million from the Park District’s reserves would cut that account “to a minimal number. Then you don’t have a rainy day account any more.”

“If you want to have 30,000 rounds played at Westview and have the golf course pay for itself, you have to do this,” he said. “If you don’t irrigate it, the taxpayers might have to subsidize more in the long run. And once you lose somebody from your golf course, it’s hard to get them back.”

One option previously discussed was to get rid of the back nine to cut costs. Morgan doesn’t believe that’s a good idea.

“We would have to close the front 18 down on certain days for ladies and juniors, we have leagues on the back nine, and we have leagues going off on the front 18,” he said. “So now you shut down (the back nine), and we’re going to lose revenue from that. Those nine holes are self-sustaining. Some people say it’s not, but it’s always busy back there.”

“The future of golf is your youngsters and new passholders. They will not jump on the front 18 when they’re a new golfer,” Frericks said. “They’re gonna go on the back nine, lose four or five balls, let people pass them and take their time without people driving down their backs.”

Any option to pay for the new irrigation system that includes the sale of holes 19-27 must be put on a referendum, because the amount of property is more than three acres.

‘If you don’t do it, you’re gonna lose it’

Frericks isn’t sure passing the cost along to the golfers is a good idea.

“At what price point do you piss off your passholders?” he said. “They will be like, ‘You’re going to nickel and dime me now? I’m going to Cedar Crest (Country Club in Quincy) or (to Arrowhead Heights Golf Course in) Camp Point.’ At some point, yeah, we need to increase the (18-hole rates). But what is that price point?”

Frericks said the priority now is to speak with the irrigation consultants first to get a grasp of what the project would cost.

“Then the second part is discussing the pros and cons with the full board,” he said. “It’s no different than buying a new car. Where’s the money coming from? Are we willing to finance it?”

Frericks doesn’t see any cons, other than the price tag, when discussing the irrigation system.

“Because if you don’t do it, you’re gonna lose it,” he said.

“People are used to the green grass and the fairways, They look nice,” Morgan said. “People are accustomed to it. This is what they expect to see out there now.”

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