By Mary Hladky
The city planned to take over operation of the 167-acre Boca Raton Golf and Racquet Club as of Oct. 1, one year after The Boca Raton thrilled city leaders by donating the country club to the city.
The transition of the formerly named Boca Golf and Tennis Country Club to a public facility is a huge undertaking for the city, and officials are still working through many decisions.
The club, located outside city limits at 17751 Boca Club Blvd., will be closed for one month while the city completes an assessment of the facilities. The 18-hole championship golf course will reopen on Nov. 1, with rates of $75 for city residents and $105 for nonresidents. There will be no annual membership fee to use the clubhouse or other amenities.
The clubhouse will remain closed until renovations are completed.
Although the golf course, tennis courts, clubhouse, pool and other amenities landed in the city’s lap free of charge, that doesn’t mean the transaction has been cost-free.
The city has spent $1.3 million this year on equipment that it needs to operate the club and on renovations and improvements.
It has also budgeted $6.5 million for additional renovations and improvements in the new fiscal year that started on Oct. 1. Six employees will be added to the city’s payroll to manage and maintain the club, at an annual cost of $369,500.
The city will use proceeds from the $65 million sale of its municipal golf course to GL Homes, expected to be completed by Nov. 1, to pay for $7.8 million of these costs. The rest of the proceeds will go into a reserve fund.
Jason Hayes, who has managed public and private golf courses, was hired in June to be club manager.
Hayes and city officials outlined improvements that are underway in an Aug. 25 meeting with residents of the Boca Golf and Tennis Club, whose homes are adjacent to the golf course.
“Our goal is to have this be a first-class golf facility,” Hayes said. “It will take us a couple of years to get it to that level, but we are working hard as a team to make that happen.”
Workers are re-roofing maintenance buildings and the cart barn, eliminating weeds on the golf course, grooming the greens, renovating restrooms, installing impact windows on the clubhouse, replacing clubhouse awnings and painting the building.
The main entrance and clubhouse kitchen will be upgraded.
City officials don’t expect to reopen the fitness center. They are likely to close the pool because the $250,000 annual cost to operate it “is not financially feasible,” City Manager Leif Ahnell said at a Sept. 14 City Council meeting.
Changes also could be coming to the tennis center. A consultant will present options, which could include tennis courts only, switching to pickleball courts or a combination of the two.
The only apparent opposition to the city’s plans is coming from residents of the 960-home Boca Golf and Tennis Club who are still smarting because they say they were never told that the new owners of the former Boca Raton Resort and Club were going to offer the country club to the city.
They are concerned about increased traffic and the potential loss of privacy and safety.
Some of those speaking at the Aug. 25 meeting were very unhappy to learn that the pool could be closed and tennis courts eliminated. Residents who are premier members of The Boca Raton have been able to use both.
One woman said her decision to buy a home in the community was based on access to the pool and tennis courts.
Another said she will sell her home. “We have a lot of really upset people,” she said.
“We are trying to make decisions for a very large number of people, not just this community,” said Assistant City Manager Chrissy Gibson. “We hear your comments.”
In a statement to city officials, resident Marvin Weinstein said, “Residents are expressing shock at what they see as a betrayal not just of (premier) club members, but the hundreds of other households without memberships for whom the prospect of one day joining the club was always available.”
He also wants the city to commit to keeping the golf course and not selling the land to a developer.
When Weinstein voiced his concerns again at the Sept. 14 meeting, Ahnell said the city is committed to maintaining a golf course, but could not put that in writing until it takes over ownership.
MSD Partners, formed by billionaire Michael S. Dell’s private investment firm, and Northview Hotel Group, acquired the club as part of their purchase of The Boca Raton for $875 million in 2019. The resort is now in the midst of a $175 million renovation.
In announcing the donation, the owners said they wanted to concentrate on completing that project. They also said the club has been underutilized for more than a decade.