By Clint Brown
Bos Landen Golf Club's ownership for 2014 and beyond is up in the air.
According to a press release sent to The Chronicle last week and then verified during a meeting held at the course on Saturday night, National Golf & Resort Properties Group of Marcus & Millichap Real Estate Investment Services, the nation’s largest real estate investment services firm, has been retained to exclusively market for sale the Bos Landen Golf Course & Banquet Hall.
Priced at $1,395,000, Bos Landen is believed to be one of the most recognizable and well-reviewed golf courses in the entire state of Iowa. The club was originally designed by well-known architect Dick Phelps.
Once completed in 1994, Bos Landen went on to rank as Iowa's #1 Public Golf Course from 1997 – 2001, and was also ranked in the Top-75 Most Affordable Golf Courses in the United States 1999 - 2000, all according to Golf Digest.
"I was hoping for more people," owner Scott Reuter said in response to approximately only 40 people in attendance at the meeting on Saturday night. The purpose of the meeting was for Reuter, along with wife Steph and parents Tom and Judy Reuter, who are owners in the facility (R&R Management), to 'set the records straight' according to an email invitation sent by Scott Reuter prior to the meeting.
During the meeting held at Bos Landen on Saturday night, Scott Reuter explained several issues as why he was walking away from the course.
"I saw utility (rates) here that were very, very high," Reuter said. "Some of those numbers (for a year) were more than $37-38,000. Before we even got involved, we thought how can we do this. It made us uncomfortable. We met with the City numerous time. What came of that is that the City can't give us a special rate - understandable. Then every other business would want a special rate."
Reuter did comment that because the City of Pella owns the land the course is on - he felt Bos Landen was unique.
"From that came the $90,000 that is basically there to cover chemicals, fertilizer, seed, sand for bunkers, top dressing and cart path repair," he said. "That was intended to essentially take care of the land. That was why that ($90k from the City) came about. We agreed to that for a 20-year agreement, with a 10-year option."
Let's see how that works Reuter thought.
"In 2009 we agreed with Leighton State Bank that there is no way we're going to make a profit on a six-month year," Reuter said. "They essentially took all the expenses in 2009 and paid for them - 100 percent. I had an open checkbook so to speak. That's what Leighton State Bank did - thank you. While we were here in 2009 - we started to see some issues. We have a sinkhole out on #10. It started out as big as a piece of paper and and it grew and it grew to a point where a car could of fallen in it. It became a hazard and a liability."
Reuter said they then approached the City about the problem and asked how it would be taken care of.
"The response we got back was 'Do you have room in your $90,000?'," Reuter said. "What did I just tell you about the $90,000? We did use some of that money to take care it. The problem with the sinkhole was storm sewer drainage, from the homes, that gave way. It sucked everything out. It had nothing to do with the golf course, but I wanted to let you understand what the cause of that problem was."
Also in 2010, Reuter said, drainage within the driving range arose.
"Why do you put a water hazard in a driving range," Reuter asked. "We lease the land for $1 per year for 99 years from the City. How are we going to fix this land problem? We have to divert this water somewhere else. We're losing thousands of golf balls. Needless to say we got that fixed. We got additional (money) for that, we did all the work. That project came to slightly under $25,000. There is an erosion issue out here. Something that we have no control over, the land has no control over, the City has no control over. No one has control over this. Every ounce of water comes through our golf course. Anything to the north, over by the hotel, to over by the airport, over to Idaho all funnels to the driving range and then underneath the road, across #10 and into the pond (on #18), overflows like a toilet and washes out and goes to Lake Red Rock."
The erosion issue was something Reuter said was brought to the City's attention.
"We explained to them what we were seeing as problems to their land," Reuter said. "Nowhere in the lease does it say who fixes what. We then nit-picked the golf course to death. It's something that should of ben done before. There are a lot of things that have no been addressed since 1994. Things are piling up and now we have major issues that need to be addressed. Those issues are over $2.5 million. Of which $1.5 million is a new irrigation system. Who is in charge of the irrigation system? It isn't in the lease. The irrigation system that was installed in 1994 is a 1974 system. We can not find any parts to replace any of our irrigation system."
Reuter said he didn't want to be the bad guy, but these issued need addressed.
"We are business owners," Reuter said. "Things are only going to get worse and pretty soon we aren't able to put out a marketable product. Then what happens? No business. Do I need to say more? I know that sounds harsh, but it's the truth. No one is going to want to come out here and pay $50 to play something that is deteriorating. We've put bandaids on a lot of things and it looks pretty good on the outside, but I tell you what, I look pretty cute too. But if you saw what was underneath here, it's not so pretty."
'How can this all get this fixed?' Reuter thought.
"Since July of 2012, we have put together 11 different proposals that we have presented to Mike Nardini (Pella City Administrator)," Reuter said. "He is my contact guy. He then presented it to the Mayor and City Council. In the meantime, we met with some major corporations and discussed how we can all get together and figure out how to stabilize this golf course."
Reuter admitted he really wasn't sure exactly how that would work.
"Since 2009 we have grown our business 38.6 percent," Reuter said. "We have also grown our membership 19 percent. We are still not making money. We are losing $150,000 on average every year. We are seeing a lot of expenditures, that we are paying for. We feel we can have some assistance with or someone else could take care of."
Negotiations with the City and major corporations continued into 2013. All agreed, to some extent according to Reuter, on how to work in 2013.
"I don't really know what happened on the other side of the table," Reuter said. "What I do know is the City was willing to give us an additional subsidy only for 2013. That's fine - 2013 - yeah, let's figure this out. This isn't a one-year fix. You can't get everything fixed in one year."
There was a dollar amount, according to Reuter, that was agreed to for additional monies in 2013.
"There was some assistance and there wasn't some assistance," Reuter said. "The dollar amount that was agreed to us from the City is not 100 percent fulfilled for 2013. I don't see it happening. We asked numerous times to get it on paper. It never did. Here we are. It's the truth."
Reuter said he felt lost on what to do moving forward.
"We never knew what direction (the City) wanted to go," Reuter said. "It's not about us, it's about Bos Landen. We started thinking we need to look out for ourselves. It's not what we want to do, but it seems like that's the way we have to go. The City needs to be more financially responsible for their land. What I do know is, R&R Management did what they could and it's time to move on. We are getting no where."
Before closing the meeting, Reuter offered some advice.
"Stop being reactive and start being proactive," he said. "Don't wait for the next person to get in trouble. There is potential for this course to make it. On a smiling note, I do thank everyone."
An official date of when the door will close for the season at Bos Landen is up in the air at this point, but Reuter made it clear when the money stops coming in, the doors will be locked.
"I highly doubt we are open in November," he said. "I don't like the direction we have to go, the direction the course might have to go."
Pella Mayor Jim Mueller, who was in attendance at the meeting, respectively declined comment.