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TRIO INTEND TO IMPROVE GOLF COURSE

SHARE TRIO INTEND TO IMPROVE GOLF COURSE

Golf professional Kean Ridd and two business partners believe they can turn East Bay Golf Course into a popular and profitable recreational spot.

Operating under the name Stonebridge Links Management, Ridd and partners Earl Kemp and Scott Gardner are proposing to take over management of East Bay Golf Course for the next 15 years and possibly 25 years. Basically, Stonebridge says it will spend more than $2 million improving the course in exchange for a share of the profits when, and if, the course becomes profitable."We believe the future holds some profits for ourselves and the city," Kemp recently told the City Council.

Stonebridge will find out Tuesday night how golfers and city officials feel about the proposed management agreement. For the first time, the City Council will hear public comment on the proposal. Following public input, council members will vote on whether to accept or reject the plan.

"It's something that's good for the golf course, something that's good for the golfer and something that's good for the city," Ridd told city officials.

The city is considering the agreement because of a massive repair bill lurking in the near future. The course's irrigation system is failing and last year workers repaired about 150 leaks. Because the course was built on an old landfill, several fairways are sinking and some are eroding into adjacent lakes. Golfers are also complainingabout the poor design of several holes.

Parks Director Leroy Dennis says it will cost more than $2 million to make the much-needed repairs.

"This proposal came about because we don't have $2 million," Mayor George Stewart said.

Under the proposed management agreement, Stonebridge would install a new irrigation system, widen some fairways, stabilize lake edges, add top soil to holes 8 and 9, install drainage improvements and increase golf cart storage. The management group would also add lights to the driving range, construct an 18-hole putting course and install golf simulation equipment in the clubhouse.

"We're betting that with improvements the course will become more user friendly and we can increase rounds and get them up where it becomes a profitable enterprise," Kemp said.

Under the proposal, Stone-bridge would take over the course and all amenities on March 1. Existing city employees would have the option of working under Stone-bridge or remaining with the city in another department. Revenue for the first two years would go to retiring capital-improvement debt, with profits for the remaining years being shared equally between the city and Stonebridge.

All course fees would still be approved by the City Council. However, the fees must be comparable to rates charged at other northern Utah courses. All golf programs currently in existence would continue.

"We're not trying to turn this into an exclusive course," Kemp said.

Season passes, however, could become a thing of the past. Terms of the agreement give Stonebridge the right to phase out season passes in favor of punch cards.

Councilman Karl Thalman said he generally views privatizing a public golf course as bad policy. He said profit motive shouldn't always be the management philosophy of public-owned facilities. However, because of past problems at East Bay, he said council members should evaluate all concerns about the proposal and determine whether the agreement is a good deal for residents or a bad deal.

"I do not intend to resist or oppose this proposal. I just want to present some concerns and facts which can help in making a decision which will be best for all," he said.