Despite some serious financial hardships, Abbotsford’s Ledgeview Golf Course is remaining open.
John Hambley, the interim president of the Ledgeview Golf Society, said that in an attempt to get the local course back on solid financial footing, some major restructuring had to take place.
Last year, the society, then led by Pat Differ, went before council seeking $250,000 in financial support. After running the course successfully for the past 30 years, the club lost $112,000 in 2010, $240,000 in 2011 and was expecting to lose $150,000 this year.
The society was created in 1978 to run the city-owned public golf facility. It currently has a lease that will expire at the end of 2015.
In May, the city granted Ledgeview $115,000, including $65,000 in rent forgiveness and $50,000 toward capital improvements.
However, financial troubles continued.
On Oct. 9, members were asked whether they wanted to continue, or “hand over the keys” to the city.
“The society wished to continue running the course,” said Hambley.
After the vote, five of seven on the board of directors resigned, and a sixth followed shortly after.
An almost entirely new board, led by Hambley, is now trying to put the course back on track.
But it is an uphill battle.
“What happened is our line of credit at the bank, which is $275,000 … we reached the limit on that effectively this fall and we couldn’t pay our payables promptly.”
He said the group was approximately $400,000 in debt at the time. The group had to find some new money and the bank was not an option.
“We asked all our members to contribute $500 as a special assessment and to date we’ve raised about $76,000.”
They also received an additional $50,000 in donations from the approximately 230 members, bringing the total raised to about $125,000.
“We had set a minimum of $120,000 to raise in order to satisfy the creditors, give us some working capital to get us through the winter.”
They also asked members to pre-pay membership fees for next season, generating an additional $160,000 in dues.
“All these monies, the prepaid dues, the donations and the assessments were put in a lawyer’s trust account so the bank couldn’t just go ahead and take it and say thank you very much,” explained Hambley.
With the immediate financial need looking more stable, the society started the next phase of restructuring.
Creditors were approached and asked to reduce the amount owed by 20 per cent. Ledgeview would repay its debts, but at 80 cents on the dollar.
So far, creditors have allowed the group to save an additional $8,000.
Hambley is hopeful other creditors will follow suit.
“It’s been a difficult time; a lot of hard work by the board. But at the same time it’s been a bit of a rallying by the membership. There’s a very passionate core of members who really want Ledgeview to succeed.”
While golf courses across North America are struggling due to the current economic situation, Hambley said some of Ledgeview’s woes were “self-inflicted”.
He said the society hasn’t been “on the ball” managing and budgeting the course, and needs to be more diligent.
That means the board will have to take over some of the hands-on duties of running the course.
“The general manager’s (Chris Hood) contract expired at end of December and he’s not being renewed.”
Hambley said it doesn’t mean another general manager won’t be hired in the coming years. The group just “can’t afford it right now.”
A marketing campaign is also being developed to let the public know that Ledgeview is open to everyone.
“It’s a public course. We have to change the perception that you have to be a member to play.”
The society is also examining its pricing to see if it can attract more golfers.
“Ultimately, the goal of the society is to get a lease extension from the city.”