'Muni' revenues rise after renovations; rates also likely to climb

'Muni' revenues rise after renovations; rates also likely to climb
A look down the fairway at the Par 4 3rd hole (Source: WECT)
A look down the fairway at the Par 4 3rd hole (Source: WECT)
Tee box markers line the fairway at the "Muni" (Source: WECT)
Tee box markers line the fairway at the "Muni" (Source: WECT)

WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - Since the morning of October 2


2014 golfers have lined the fairways of the “Muni” eager to see the $1.5 million worth of renovations to the Donald Ross layout.

Architect John Fought was hired by the City of Wilmington to lead up the first renovation to the course since 1928, when the earth was finished moving, what was left was a transformation that was long overdue.

“It was at least three-quarters if not higher in favor of this project and even the ones that were skeptical about it have come up and said, 'You know what? I don't know what I was thinking. This is so much better than it was,'" said head professional David Donovan.

Since re-opening in October, the Muni has enjoyed new revenue records, as both long-time and new visitors flock to the course.

Through the first five months that the course has been open, only February saw a drop in revenue. For the months of October 2014 through February 2015, the revenue at the Muni is up $93,720.

The increase for the course has also come with an increase golfers are paying in the clubhouse.

Currently, weekday rates run between $23 and $35 - depending on if you walk or ride, and on the weekends it jumps to $27 and $39 for residents of New Hanover, Pender and Brunswick counties.

If you live outside of those areas you'll pay even more.

"Our rate increase was a $6 rate increase basically, but it's been just a little bit more play." Donovan said. "I really haven't had any negative comments about it which is incredible really, you can't please everybody we know that, we try to."

The rate increase will go up again this summer. During an April 2014 Wilmington City Council meeting, Superintendent of Recreation and Downtown Services Amy Beatty recommended in July rates will climb by another 10 percent.

The rate hike is necessary to help maintain the Muni's fund balance which is between 15-and-20 percent of the operating budget. The fund balance for the end the 2014 fiscal year was $637,615.

"It's important to have that fund balance in emergencies," Beatty said. "If the irrigation system broke or if we had a hurricane where there was extensive damage, we want to keep that at a minimum to cover those emergencies but also build it up so that we continue to be strategic in our planning and look down the road to see what other capital projects might be on the horizon and have a plan to finance those."

Another way the fund balance will be built back up is through tournament play. Both the Wilmington Amateur and Senior Amateur Championships will be held at the course, and for the first time the North Carolina State Amateur will hold a qualifying round at the Muni.

"Now that we've had the renovations occur we are getting phone calls and interest from a higher caliber of tournament and we think that is going to be important to the success of the course," Beatty said.

The success it has already seen post-renovation may just be the beginning. Historically the banner months for the golf course run late spring though the end of the summer which is when the bulk of the more than 50-thousand rounds are played. Beatty believes the renovations will not only help the course, but the City of Wilmington as well.

"There is such history associated with the course itself and in the clubhouse and there's lots of different ways we are looking to promote that to really make the Muni golf course a destination course for people outside of our community to come and play," Beatty said.

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