Roanoke City-owned Countryside Golf Course
In an email initiated by Meadowbrook’s Vice-President of Operations, Scott Beasley in Clearwater, Florida threatened to begin making plans to remove all the equipment from Countryside golf course. There is no indication on when Roanoke City plans to award a 10-year contract to manage the course. Beasley stressed a “drop-dead” date of September 4 or they will make plans to remove all their equipment. Meadowbrook is the current operator of the golf course and one of three respondents to the request for proposal to manage the course for the next 10 years. Others included one group with former councilman Alvin Nash as promoter and marketer.
Beasley states, “While the daily operation and maintenance of the facility will not be compromised, plans will need to be made to move all of the golf course equipment, golf carts, point of sale systems, FF&E in the clubhouse and all merchandise to other Meadowbrook managed facilities. All of these plans need to be in place well in advance of the expiration of our existing agreement.” The existing lease terminates the end of October.
When contacted by phone Mayor Bowers would not elaborate but did say he expected Countryside to be on the docket for Tuesday’s council meeting but returned a call shortly after contacting the city manager, Darlene Burcham. It will not be on Tuesday’s docket and he stated that Burcham told him it was being worked out. The next council meeting is September 21. An email from Vice-Mayor Sherman Lea indicated he would call as soon as he could.
A phone call to Beasley who was at a Philadelphia airport at the time indicated he has heard nothing from Burcham or anyone with the city. He said he “has a good relation with them” and is prepared to sit down with the city to negotiate a contract.
Beasley’s only response from the city as of today was a reply received September 1 from an August 24 email to Sharon Gentry, City Purchasing Manager. Gentry’s email said that “at this time there is no further information to share. There has not been a final selection or award.”
Council in closed session instructed the city manager to negotiate with Meadowbrook on Option 1 that included investment by the city. The source relayed the information on condition of anonymity.
In the barrage of emails from Beasley to Gentry all members of council were copied. Councilman Court Rosen replied that “Council is not involved in this level of procurement. I certainly hope the city doesn’t rush the process and it sounds like if we are not prepared to move forward by Sept. 4 the current operator is not interested. Certainly they’re decision.”
A frustrated Beasley replied to Rosen, “That is not the case but someone has to understand that the City can’t wait until October to make a decision. As I have stated many times, Meadowbrook sincerely wants to be the ongoing partner for the City for a long time. However, if we are not going to be, we just need to know so a smooth transition plan can be executed. It is our sincerest desire to continue to work with the City and think we can really take Countryside to where the City and its citizens are extremely proud of the facility.”
Rosen’s response included questioning on why Meadowbrook sold the golf course in the first place – “You are asking someone who does not believe we should, as a city, own the course. Always been curious why you all sold it. Certainly raises concern with me, as I’m sure you could understand.”
The reason Meadowbrook sold the golf course was because they were told Roanoke Regional Airport would not renew the 40-year lease of their property. The airport authority owns 40+ acres that bisects the golf course. Many of the fairways lay in those 40 acres. The property is a “safe or clear zone” for runway 6. The airport authority has mysteriously agreed now to lease it for another 10 years to the city. City Manager Burcham wanted the property so badly that at the advice of Ed Hall & Associates she contacted Jackie Shuck, director of ROA to make sure the lease would not be renewed in order to pressure Meadowbrook into selling. This is all documented in memos received through the Freedom of Information Act.
Joe Sailor, a Vinton resident with the Senior Tour emailed the entire conversation to 300 golfers that included 130 of his fellow Senior Tour members. Countryside Golf Course is one of the courses they play on their tour. All members have a fondness for the course. In a phone call he said that, “Countryside keeps the cost down on all the golf courses by competing with reasonable prices … other courses will jack up their prices if Countryside ceases to exist.” A salty Sailor pulled no punches in his view of the city’s lack of vision. He spoke of Vista Links golf course built by the City of Buena Vista for $11 million that is profitable. He wonder’s why Roanoke city “doesn’t get it.” He wonders why they don’t understand “the urgency of a decision” so there will be no interruption and damaging stagnation of this city’s asset.