A private Calgary investment company is proposing to take over the lease for Revelstoke Golf Club and transform into a profitable business that is a destination for tourists and special event planners.
“We are not here to buy the golf course,” said Larry Shelley, the managing partner of Citrus Capital Partners. “We are here to potentially enter into a lease agreement with the city that would define the way in which the golf course would operate going forward in a way that’s constructive to the citizens of this city.”
Shelley was in Revelstoke on Wednesday to address members of the Revelstoke Golf Club about his proposal to take over operations of the struggling course.
More than 100 people came out to hear his pitch to the club and the community.
“We’re not going to make any major decisions here today,” he said. “I want to give you some information and some options and hopefully stir some thought so in the next few weeks we can decide if there’s an avenue going forward you would be inclined to support.”
Shelley’s presentation was three-prong. First he explained who his company was and why they were interested in the golf course. Second, he talked about the state of the golf club and the industry as a whole. Third, he talked about his plans for the golf course.
Shelley started off by introducing his family, who he said were the shareholders in his company. They included his wife Laura Lee, who is from Revelstoke, daughter Lisa Costello and son-in-law James Costello. James used to be director of finance & resort operations for Stone Creek Resorts, which runs the Silvertip Resort in Canmore, Alta., and Eagle Ranch Golf Resort, in Invermere, B.C.
Citrus describes itself as “an organization of successful & experienced business people from Western Canada who have come together to invest in the Western Canadian economy, and contribute their knowledge and abilities to work with mid-sized companies in an effort to achieve a higher level of success.”
The company has investments in real estate, hotels, casinos, food services, marketing and retail.
Prior to forming Citrus Capital, Shelley was the CEO of Coril Holdings, one of Canada’s largest private companies. There, he helped engineer an acquisition that created one of Canada’s largest real estate companies.
Shelley said he was in Revelstoke because of his wife’s connections to the town, but he also feels his company can generate a return on investment through the golf course.
His proposal is for Citrus Capital to enter into a lease agreement with the city, at which point they would use their own money to upgrade the course, renovate or replace the clubhouse, and market the course.
Citrus would make money by increasing the number of visiting golfers, and by making it a destination for special events like weddings. Member fees wouldn’t be raised, and local discounts would be available, Shelley said.
The key would be special events, he said. “There’s such a market for it,” he said. “It’s such a lucrative business.”
For that to happen, the clubhouse would either need substantial upgrades or be replaced. “There is an old building sitting there and a decision has to be made on whether to renovate it if you’re going to move progressively on hosting special events,” Shelley said.
He also said the course needed to be marketed in major markets, like Calgary, so people are prepared to stop here for a round of golf while they travel.
“They need to know their going to stop for dinner, for a nine-and-dine, for 18 holes,” he said. “You have to stand up and wave a flag and get noticed. It’s expensive but its the most effective way.”
Shelley’s goal is to sign a lease by October of this year. His company would then begin assessing the course and developing a plan for improvements, and developing a new business model. The clubhouse would be assessed to see if it was feasible to preserve it. They would develop a new brand and begin marketing. By year three, new facilities and the new brand would be in place.
He pitched it as a “no-lose opportunity” where the city would be off the hook for maintaining the building, club members would keep their low fees, the community would gain a renovated facility, and Citrus would recoup their investments in about 20 years.
That all depends on reaching an agreement with the city.
“That is not going to happen unless there’s alignment between ourselves, the people in this room and the community at large,” Shelley said.
The Revelstoke Golf Club has lost money in recent years and has been unable to pay its rent to the city, which owns the golf course lands. The clubhouse and other buildings require up to of $600,000 in repairs.
The City of Revelstoke is forming a task force to look at the future sustainability of the course. Mayor Mark McKee told the meeting that one of the task forces responsibility would be to work on a new lease.
“This is going to be a transparent progress,” he said. “If theres a lease, its going to go out to the public. It’s going to be for everyone to see and look at and kick around. There’s going to be a lot of negotiations if we see there’s support from the community to enter into something like this.”
Afterwards, the reaction was generally positive, though there was some skepticism as to whether or not it would actually go forward. Glenn O’Reilly said he thinks the course would disappear within a few years if there’s no action. Judy Goodman, the executive director of the Chamber of Commerce, called it a “no-brainer.”
Fred Beruschi likened it to the debates over Revelstoke Mountain Resort — without investment, you might lose it entirely.