The proposed contract between the City of Phoenix Parks and Recreation Department and the Arizona Golf Association over the $8.2 million renovation of Papago Golf Course has run into some major opposition.
The Save Papago Golf coalition was formed a few days after the original story on the proposed restoration of the golf course was published in the Tribune. The coalition, which is made up primarily of members from the Papago men’s golf club, would like to see the selection process reopened because they claim it is flawed and the AGA is the wrong organization to handle the proposal.
Larry McLennan and Joe Hume, both members of the Papago men’s golf club, are heading the protest. McLennan said Save Papago Golf has as many as 700 backers.
“We’re not obstructionists,’’ McLennan said. “We know that something has to be done to the golf course (to restore it). But we just want to get the best proposal, and we don’t think that’s been done.’’
According to McLennan, the selection of the AGA by the city to renovate Papago Golf Course — which sits on the borders of Phoenix, Tempe and Scottsdale — falls short in three specific areas:
• A lack of experience in managing a successful golf operation by the AGA.
“Their only experience is the abysmal economic and ecological failure at Villa Monterey in Scottsdale,” McLennan said of the former executive course that foreclosed shortly after the AGA donated it to the Junior Golf Association of Arizona.
• The “wrong team’’ was selected. McLennan’s group thinks that Bellows Golf Management, which runs Ken McDonald and Rolling Hills golf courses in Tempe, made a more sound proposal.
• Unrealistic financial projections by the AGA about the income that can be raised by a new Papago. McLennan’s group thinks the $115 to $130 rack rate that will be charged to out-of-town customers “with no ramp-up services” is not sound.
“We just want the city to select the proposal that is the most experienced and financially stable and has reasonable projections,’’ McLennan said. “In other words, the best track record in dealing with a golf course restoration project.
“Now most people in our group didn’t know Jim Bellows a month ago, but I can tell you that the Bellows proposal is by far and away the best proposal — not the proposal from the AGA.”
Rob Harman, the director of the Phoenix Parks and Recreation Department, said the coalition’s protest has been duly noted but the AGA proposal still is on track to be approved by the Parks and Recreation board.
“The selection went through a very structured and extensive RFP (request for proposal) process, and the AGA came out as the No. 1 selection,” Harman said.
“That’s how the city does business; it’s a very sound process.”
Harman said all the proposals had strengths and weaknesses, but the “AGA’s vision met that of the city’s when it came to Papago.”
Chris Hanks, a past president of the Papago men’s golf club, said not all of the approximately 250 members of the men’s golf club are involved with the coalition.
“(The club) is not fighting it; we want to see (the restoration project) work,’’ Hanks said. “At this point, we will work with the city and whoever they select to partner with. So we are 100 percent behind the renovation as long as it’s affordable for the people who live here and support the club.”