The Coastal Star

Boca Raton: Council demands more financial details on golf course project

By Steve Plunkett

City Council members came expecting to be told how much it will cost to build the planned Boca National Golf Course.

Greater Boca Raton Beach and Park District commissioners came hoping to secure council members’ blessing of the conceptual design.

Both sides left the May 28 joint meeting unfulfilled.

Beach and Park Commissioner Robert Rollins told council members the district would build the course in phases with the first phase — the actual 18 holes plus a driving range — to cost $10 million and be fully paid for by the district.

“We’re prepared to do this project without asking you for the $10 million. We’re going to manage to do that on our own,” Rollins said, pressing the council to simply approve the plan.

That was news to council members, who in early March were given documents predicting an overall cost of $28 million, and also news to Beach and Park Commissioner Erin Wright.

“I’m a little caught off guard by the fact that we’re not asking you for money because my whole plan today was to come here and ask for money,” Wright said. “I’m not willing to put the district in jeopardy over the course, I’m not willing to put the district into more debt over this course . . . because I think that’s what will happen if we end up paying for this ourselves.”

The disconnect between Wright and Rollins shook council members’ confidence.

“I can’t greenlight this project as is with the total price tag unknown and the total ask for the city unknown,” Mayor Scott Singer said.

Council member Andy Thomson said he had researched municipal golf courses and thought the recent renovation of a public 9-hole course in Winter Park for $1.2 million could be a model.

“The Winter Park golf course hired an up-and-coming, creative, talented architect to come in and design a course that was playable and inclusive,” Thomson said, in contrast to the well-established Nick Price/Tommy Fazio team that drew up Boca National.

But District Chairwoman Susan Vogelgesang said she had just gone to Winter Park the previous weekend.

“It was not a fun course to play,” she said. 

At the council’s May 13 workshop session, Council member Monica Mayotte used discussion of postponing the $65 million sale of the city’s municipal golf course to segue into talk about Boca National. 

“Everyone wants us to use the proceeds from this sale to cover the cost of the construction of the new course,” Mayotte said.

And at the council’s May 28 workshop immediately before the joint meeting, Singer tried to get a feel for how much money his colleagues might be willing to give the district.

“What if they come back to us and say, ‘We want to maintain this project, we’re going to spend X million, we want you to sign off on these plans and we want you to contribute Y million?’ Is our response, ‘No, we’re not interested?’ ” he asked. “What if they hypothetically come back with a more modest request, say . . . ‘We’re looking for $2 million, $3 million?’ ”

No one offered a number.

In the end, commissioners said they would refine the cost estimates at their June 3 regular meeting and send the revised figures to the City Council for its June 10 workshop.

Council members agreed in principle May 13 to postpone closing their sale of the municipal golf course to GL Homes until Oct. 31, 2020, with an option to extend it another six months. The delay is meant to give golfers continuity between the old course closing and the new one opening. 

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