Revenues for Lions Club Municipal Golf Course were up by 6.5% in 2022, members of the El Dorado Parks and Playgrounds learned Tuesday.
During a financial report, EPPC chairman Ken Goudy said the year-end take for LCMGC was $312,174, compared to $293,136 in 2021.
"There was a big jump from 2019 to 2020. We know what happened there and we thought it would go back down, but it continued to go up," Goudy told commissioners, referring to an increase in play at Lions Club in 2020 during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Commissioners said then that golfers flocked to the facility in search of opportunities for outdoor activity, while being able to safely socially distance.
Annual income for the golf course jumped from $215,439 in 2019 to $288,576 in 2020.
The trend continued through 2021 and 2022.
Goudy reported that 15,000 rounds of golf were logged at Lions Club last year. The highest monthly revenues were posted in May and September at $38,023 and $38,861, respectively.
Monthly income totals ranged between the low and high $30,000s from April until October. The lowest amount for the year came in last January at $8,507, $404 less than January of 2021.
The 2022 revenue intake represents a dramatic turnaround at Lions Club, particularly within the past 10 years.
For years prior, the golf course had routinely operated on an average, annual budget deficit of at least $100,000.
The EPPC heeded calls from the El Dorado City Council to look for ways to better market and promote the 18-hole facility, generate more interest and attract more players, including luring back some players who had left Lions Club for other golf courses in El Dorado and South Arkansas.
In 2015, revenues totaled $217,490, which preceded a downward trend in 2016 and 2017 when revenues came in at $120,000 and $198,872, respectively.
In January of 2017, Goudy reported that while the facility had remained under budget in 2016, the facility had sustained a loss of $170,000 for the year.
The trend was attributed to several factors, including inclement weather, a lack of interest in playing golf and complaints about golf course management at the time, including new golf course policies that came with a stricter dress code, that did not go over well with golfers.
The parks and playgrounds commission agreed in early 2017 that drastic changes were needed to close the income-expenditure gap at the golf course and one of the first steps it took was to opt out of renewing the contract for the then-golf pro, scrap the position and hire golf course managers Danny Carelock and Terri McCaskell, both of whom had been avid, longtime golfers at LCMGC.
Another measure the EPPC took in 2017 was to temporarily decrease fees at the golf course to help boost play and memberships at Lions Club.
Commissioner Alexis Alexander asked why the fees were reduced.
"When we had all the management problems out there and the condition of the course, we didn't feel it was right to charge anybody those rates because of the condition the course was in and the way they were being treated out there," said Goudy.
He said golf course managers are considering a fee increase this year, noting that rates at Lions Club have remained the same amount for about a decade.
Carelock reported that play has been solid at Lions Club so far this year.
"Of course, today is going to be a washout but we've done real good on days when it's been pretty," he said.
Carelock also said the golf course remains in good shape and winterizing has helped to maintain the grounds for the season.
Recent storms and a deep freeze did not cause much damage at the golf course, he said.
"We had a few wash-out areas. We're waiting for the city to come out and get after that and we hope that it'll dry up soon so they can get out there," Carelock told commissioners.
Wet, rainy conditions have also prevented a months-long effort to remove two dead trees near tee boxes 2 and 6.
Carelock has said the trees pose a safety hazard, noting that limbs have begun to fall from them.
However, the ground has remained too wet to move in heavy trucks and machinery to take down the trees.
He also reminded commissioners that leases on the Lions Club greens mower and golf carts expire in April, saying the month "is going to be a pretty big transition" for Lions Club.
The city entered into a lease agreement for its current fleet of 40 golf carts in 2019.
Goudy noted that in 2021, the city council approved the budget for a new golf-cart lease for this year.
"We had to get it approved just to get on the list for this year," he said, referring to bottlenecks in the country's supply chain that were caused by the COVID-19 public health crisis.
Carelock said the 2022 spring aerifying schedule for Lions Club has been tentatively set for March 23.
He said crews hope to complete the job in one day, during which the golf course will be closed.
Commissioner and El Dorado City Council Member David Hurst said the course was closed for the day when the grounds were aerified in 2022.
Carelock and McCaskell said plenty of volunteers chipped in to assist with the project last year.
Carelock said he hopes to have the project completed before two golf tournaments that have been scheduled in April by Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity and the El Dorado Service League.
Commissioner Karen Hicks reported that since the EPPC last met in November, she has spoken to the Diamond Agency about creating marketing materials for the golf course and has submitted a funding request of $1,890 to the El Dorado Advertising and Promotion Commission.
Commissioners previously discussed developing such materials to promote the golf course during the Arkansas Governor's Conference on Tourism, which will be held in El Dorado on Feb. 26 - 28.
However, Hicks said a time-crunch will prevent the project -- which will include rack cards, professional photography and the development of a logo -- from getting off the ground before the conference.
Once the project is completed, the materials will be placed in the Arkansas Welcome Center and local hotels, Hicks said.
Additionally, she said a landing page for Lions Club will be added to the Go El Dorado website, which was recently upgraded, and the page will include information about the Lions Club, including fees, holes, etc.
The advertising and promotion commission will review the funding request and several others during a meeting at 1:30 p.m. today in the Council Chamber of City Hall.