Local Government and Politics, News

Lynn to put Gannon Golf Course out to bid

 LYNN — Gannon Municipal Golf Course will be put out to bid later this month, with the city seeking a firm to manage and maintain the property. 

The Lynn Park Commission voted unanimously Tuesday night to authorize the city to release a Request for Proposals (RFP) for the property, which includes a 190-acre golf course, banquet/restaurant facilities, bar concession, function hall, pro shop and snack shop. Firms will be submitting bids for a five-year contract with a possible one-year extension. 

“We’re looking for somebody who will run the course (and) maintain it like users like to see it,” said Steven Babbitt, chairman of the Park Commission. “There’s a big function area up there. A lot of people like to go up there and hold events. We’re looking to get the biggest bid we can get to help the city in these financial times.”

Gannon, located on Great Woods Road and built in 1929, has been put out to bid twice, in 2013 and 2018, but both times, there was only one respondent to the RFP. This time, changes have been made to the bid document in an effort to solicit more interest. The changes were made following a Request for Information (RFI) that was put out earlier this year to get a sense of what would entice other golf companies to bid, according to James Lamanna, the city’s attorney. 

“Hopefully, we’ll get more bidders because more bidders means more competition,” Lamanna said. 

The incumbent management team, Golf Facilities Management Inc. (GFMI), has been operating under a $450,000 one-year extension, which expires on Dec. 31, after its lower bid for a five-year contract was rejected by the commission in December. 

GFMI, owned by Chris Carter and Steve Murphy, has been overseeing the property since 2013 and is planning to submit a bid when the RFP is released, which is expected to be next week. Bids will be due at the end of the month. 

“We’ve always exceeded the criteria that they’ve put out, so we’re looking forward to bidding on it,” Murphy said. “I would think we have a pretty good chance.” 

Murphy said the one-year contract has been difficult for GFMI because it put some of his staff on edge and made it difficult to purchase equipment. If the team didn’t agree to the extension last year, which was based on a $200 increase in membership rates, the golf course would have been left without a management team and would have had to close. 

One of the major changes in the new RFP is that there’s no minimum bid required, but Lamanna said the city would be looking for bids that are more than the $450,000 that GFMI is paying with its current deal.

Firms will also be given the option to be more creative with their bids — they can submit a bid with an annual flat fee, which is the current practice, or offer to enter into a revenue sharing option with the city, where revenue from the course, such as membership rates, the restaurant and other operations would be split between the management company and the city. 

Lamanna said there would be more responsibility on the city’s part with a revenue share, because the city’s financial team would have to periodically check to make sure all of Gannon’s revenues are being reported correctly. In addition, if there’s bad weather, like there’s been this golf season with lots of rain, that could drive down revenue, he said. 

“The city would prefer a flat flee for the five years so they know what they’re going to be getting in, (but we’re) willing to entertain both ways,” said Babbitt. 

The new RFP puts the primary focus on managing the course, and less weight on the bar/restaurant side. In past bid documents, there was too much of an onus placed on the restaurant, Lamanna said, which shared equal weight with the course. 

Hours of operation of the food establishment and bar may have deterred bidders in the past, so this time, firms can choose whether to operate it in the winter when the course is closed, according to Lamanna. 

It’s a welcome change for Murphy, a city employee since 1976, who has served as Gannon superintendent for 30 years.

“Basically, it is a golf course,” he said. “The last RFP they put out gave the impression that it was a big-time restaurant with a golf course in the backyard. It’s a golf course with a small restaurant attached to it.” 

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