Wichita public golf courses could soon be under control of private company

Published: Feb. 14, 2022 at 10:39 PM CST
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WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) - As soon as April, Wichita golfers could be seeing changes to some local courses. The city’s public courses could soon be under the control of a private company. This was an option Wichita’s park board expired during a meeting on Monday. The board’s decision left some Wichita golfers uncertain about the future.

The Wichita City Council will have final say, the park board voted to turn over management of Wichita’s public courses to KemperSports out of Illinois. The company manages more than 150 golf courses across the U.S. This includes a mix of public and private clubs, including Newton’s Sand Creek Station.

The City of Wichita, concerned about public courses losing money, hopes turning to professionals will help to turn things around.

“We look at this as what is best for Wichita. The past 20 years, outside of the last two years with the COVID boom, golf has been declining,” said Wichita Park Board President Eddie Fahenestock. “I think it is important that we turn to a professional in KemperSports.

The deal includes an annual $200,000 fee paid to the Illinois-based company to manage the courses. This includes some potential course renovations.

The decision on the shift to private control leaves some Wichita golfers concerned. They believe the courses are find the way they are.

“Ninety-nine percent of public golfers in Wichita are opposed to this,” said Wichita golfer Dale Goter. “The group that is in favor of it, don’t play golf. Well, it puts at risk the sustainability of our golf system. IT needs to be nurtured; it needs to be taken care of. What is happening here is, we’re giving the keys to the car to a private managing company. Five years from now, when they decide to leave, they will have taken 5-million bucks ($5 million) out and they don’t care what happens after that.”

If the Wichita City Council approves the decision to shift the city’s public golf courses to private-company control, the park board clarified that KemperSports would only manage the courses and the city would still own them and thus making final decisions on pricing for green fees. At its March 1 meeting, the Wichita City Council will vote on the decision.

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