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Posted on Fri, Dec 3, 2010 : 2:10 p.m.

Huron Hills golf proposal asks city of Ann Arbor to float $3 million in bonds for building

By Ryan J. Stanton


A golfer lines up a putt on the scenic par 4, 12th hole at the city-owned Huron Hills Golf Course in Ann Arbor. The city is considering privatizing the course.

File photo

A for-profit company hoping to take over the city-owned Huron Hills Golf Course made its sales pitch to Ann Arbor officials today, asking the city to help finance construction of an 11,000-square-foot golf center and driving range on the property.

Financial details of the proposal were made known for the first time during a public interview inside city hall with representatives of Pittsfield Township-based Miles of Golf.

Miles of Golf is proposing to operate Huron Hills as an 18-hole golf course for the next few years, investing about $40,000 into improvements during that time.

Within three to five years, the company would move forward with building a new golf center and driving range, which would require converting Huron Hills to a 9-hole course.

The new facility would come with an estimated price tag of $3.25 million. Miles of Golf President Chris Mile said his company would be willing to put up $250,000 upfront, while the city would be responsible for issuing $3 million in bonds to cover the rest.

Mile told city officials his company would make all of the bond payments over 20 years, making the city whole and leaving it with ownership of the building.

Considering the city is losing nearly $250,000 a year subsidizing Huron Hills, Miles of Golf estimates the city could save $5 million over 20 years, plus profit another $1 million under the proposed public-private partnership arrangement.

Miles of Golf's proposal predicts it could turn a profit by making Huron Hills — described as an underutilized course — into a "successful, innovative, and spectacular golf facility."

The proposal drew several questions today from the city's selection committee for Huron Hills, including City Council Member Stephen Rapundalo, D-2nd Ward.

"Clearly the notion of the city taking that kind of risk for a presumed longer-term benefit is just that — it's a big risk," Rapundalo said. "It's a complex set of circumstances they've put forward, and I think you're going to find both staff and the selection committee are going to be honing in very carefully on that. Quite frankly, I have some grave concerns."

The city's exploration into alternative options for Huron Hills has been ongoing for several years as it continues to lose money each year on the golf course's operations.

The city issued a request for proposals in September, hoping to attract a private company that could offer a new cost-saving approach, but would also preserve the land as a golf asset. Miles of Golf was one of two responders — the second is a group of preservation-minded residents who call themselves the Ann Arbor Golf Association.

Ann Arbor Golf's proposal — which called for operating the 18-hole course through a nonprofit foundation — was tossed out by the city's selection committee. The committee decided the group didn't meet qualifications and lacked financial references.

Paul Bancel, president of Ann Arbor Golf and a former member of the city's Golf Advisory Task Force, said he's disappointed but not surprised his group's proposal wasn't selected.

"The RFP was pretty specifically written for a bigger or different idea than ours. It was written for more of a commercial operation," he said. "Ours was obviously not a commercial proposal, but our proposal was one that would preserve the whole park space there. We put the proposal together with the idea of maintaining the land as it is now and hopefully running a golf course."

The selection committee, which interviewed Miles of Golf today, includes Colin Smith, the city’s parks and recreation manager; Julie Grand, chairwoman of the Park Advisory Commission; Doug Kelly, the city’s director of golf; Mike Reid, a former City Council member; Ed Walsh, a member of the city’s Golf Advisory Task Force; Sumedh Bahl, the city’s community services area administrator; and Rapundalo.

The Miles of Golf proposal has caused concerns among residents who fear the city could be jeopardizing valuable natural areas space while putting the city at risk financially. Ann Arbor resident Ann Schriber fears Miles of Golf could build a "huge complex" on city parkland.

"Wouldn't such commercialization dismantle the park? I know it is a three-phase process, but once it is signed, sealed and delivered, the park is essentially a goner as their proposal was not to just manage the golf course," she wrote in a recent letter to Mayor John Hieftje.

Susan Morrison, a lawyer representing a group called the Ann Arbor Parks Preservation Association, also sent a letter to Hieftje and City Council members recently. She asked that the Miles of Golf proposal be denied because it's "legally and financially risky for the city."

Morrison argued a retail golf store on public parkland does not comply with the city's zoning ordinance. She also thinks it violates an Oct. 22, 2007, City Council resolution that states all city golf courses "shall remain in the parks system as open space for the purpose of other possible public recreational uses, should the golf operations cease for any reason."


The Huron Hills Golf Course sits on 116 acres of land, and is bisected by Huron Parkway.

File photo

The city attorney's office is reviewing those claims.

Miles of Golf's plan is to move its present business at Carpenter and Packard roads to the front seven holes of Huron Hills, where it would establish a retail shop, teaching academy and practice facility, including driving range. The 11 holes on the south side of the property would continue to operate as a 9-hole course with possibly two practice holes.

Company officials say Miles of Golf has operated successfully in the Ann Arbor area for 15 years and has grown nearly threefold.

The city's RFP issued in September stated all proposals for Huron Hills must demonstrate a commitment to growing the game of golf, conduciveness to entry-level golfers, and accessibility and affordability, especially for children and seniors. The RFP allows for physical improvements to the property, but the city would retain ownership of all buildings and property.

The golf course sits on 116 acres of land, and is bisected by Huron Parkway. The original course was designed in 1922 by Thomas Bendelow, a renowned golf architect who also designed the Medinah course in Chicago, which has hosted numerous PGA and USGA events.

The city origins of the golf course are traced to September 1949, when the University of Michigan gave the deed to the lower 9 holes and $10,000 to the city in exchange for Felch Park. In November 1951, the city purchased an additional 57.5 acres for the back nine.

Mile acknowledged today that Huron Hills is "one of the prettiest parks in Ann Arbor." But as it stands now, he said, "It's sort of dead. It has a dead feeling to it." He said Miles of Golf's proposal is intended to inject Huron Hills with "some life and vitality."

Miles of Golf appears to have a strong existing customer base, which it could bring to Huron Hills. The company's practice facility is used by many high school golf teams in the county, as well as the U-M and Eastern Michigan University men’s and women’s teams.

Miles of Golf currently offers golf instruction, practice and equipment at its location at 3113 Carpenter Road. But it doesn't offer customers a place to play.

Doug Davis, co-founder and vice president of Miles of Golf, said he knows some residents who live near Huron Hills are concerned about the possibility of unsightly perimeter fences and lights traditionally associated with driving ranges. But he said none of that is being proposed.

"There's just some things being said that aren't true," he said, mentioning rumors of turning Huron Hills into a "strip mall."

"People are choosing to create buzzwords I think to get other people's attention," he said, adding the long-term plan is to remove two buildings and replace them with a single one-story building that will be "much more appealing" visually.

City Administrator Roger Fraser said the city's only interest in seeking proposals for Huron Hills is to come up with a plan that allows the city to preserve the land as a golf facility, while also recognizing the city has budget challenges it must address.

"We would like to not be subsidizing Huron Hills," he said. "Our ambition at the moment is to stop the drain and do it in a way that preserves the asset."

The city-owned Leslie Park Golf Course also is losing money, Fraser said, but it's doing a better job of covering its costs than Huron Hills.


Miles of Golf staffer Casey Baker, left, watches as a customer tries out new drivers in the Titleist room.

File photo

Fraser acknowledged the city has had private discussions with people interested in buying the riverfront at Huron Hills and developing it, but that's never gone anywhere. He downplayed concerns raised by residents who fear they'll lose natural areas space.

"We have a group of people who I will describe as alarmists who are willing to suggest that whatever we're doing is not going to be honestly stated, and it doesn't seem to matter what we tell them," Fraser said. "There's no validity to it, and it's the same group of people."

Fraser said even if the city moves forward on a public-private partnership for Huron Hills, "95 percent of what you see there today will remain."

Hieftje said he expects a recommendation on Huron Hills to go before PAC in January, and then come before the City Council possibly in February. He said Huron Hills has been a problematic issue for the city since he joined the City Council in 1999.

"We haven't been able to accomplish that much of a reduction in the city's costs at Huron Hills, so we came to the RFP process," he said. He stressed he's "not at all inclined to put money into it, as far as funding a bond proposal or anything like that."

Hieftje echoed Fraser's thoughts, saying he's received several letters and phone calls from residents raising concerns that are "not connected to reality."

"Miles of Golf is not proposing to do a lot of the things that people are saying they would do," he said. "This is a city park, and it needs to be open to our residents to use year-round. For me, the hiking, the sledding, and the cross-country skiing and the stuff that happens in the wintertime is just as important, and also the beautiful land that that represents. I wouldn't want to do anything to take away from that vista. It's something we all enjoy, whether we're golfers or not."

Hieftje said there are other options for Huron Hills beyond the Miles of Golf proposal, but the city must remember at every stage that it's a park.

"The look and feel of Huron Hills — it's a park," he said. "And I wouldn't want to do something where, if it didn't work out as golf, it would be difficult to go back. Because one of the options here I think is if it's found that golf can't work out there, we could make it into a natural area park and have minimal responsibilities as far as maintenance."

Mile acknowledged it's going to be risky for Miles of Golf to take on operation of the golf course. There's also the risk that current projections related to the construction project might not hold up over the next three years, meaning it could take more than $3 million in bonds.

"Life has uncertainties, and this is one of them," Mile said, later adding: "You're absolutely right. If interest rates go crazy, there's going to be a problem."

Mile said his company would be willing to consider taking the current golf course staff under the umbrella of Miles of Golf. But Rapundalo said he doesn't see that happening, and the scenario isn't factored into the financial figures provided by Miles of Golf.

"They mentioned that staff could be absorbed on their payroll rates, not ours. I can't imagine our staff would go along with that," he said. "Which then means the city hangs onto those costs per labor contracts, including health benefits and pension."

Ryan J. Stanton covers government and politics for Reach him at or 734-623-2529.


Marvin Gerber

Mon, Dec 13, 2010 : 5:48 p.m.

If the city is short of money, then why is it spending between 6 hundred to 1 million on a sculpture to grace our "beautiful" new city hall. The same people who approved the ugliest building in Ann Arbor are proposing to wreck a magnificent piece of open space. This at the same time we are buying a green belt outside the city. marvin gerber

Marvin Gerber

Fri, Dec 10, 2010 : 12:41 p.m.

Why is the city spending between 600 to 1 million on a sculpture for the city hall and claiming budget crises. Also, why does the city spend money to purchase development rights outside of the city to preserve open space? Huron Hills is open space and beautiful. Keep it that way.


Tue, Dec 7, 2010 : 1:57 p.m.

Someone needs to make public the books that suggest HH is loosing $250K per year. Difficult to understand how HH can cost that much to maintain, without supporting City Hall charges, also.

Stupid Hick

Tue, Dec 7, 2010 : 2:44 a.m.

In essence, the Miles proposal boils down to: the city spends $3 million to build a 11,000 store and range, and then rent it and the back nine for $18k per month ($4.5 million potential payments to the city over 20 years). Is $18k per month a fair price for 11,000 square feet of custom-built retail space, a driving range, and 9-hole golf course on Huron Parkway? In other words, is it in the public interest for the city to make irreversible changes to Huron Hills, and take on financial risk, for an upside of approximately $6k per month in cash, plus ownership of the retail building 20 years out? And this doesn't include the loss of Huron Hill's contribution to the MSC ($86k per year), nor its share of depreciation. Are my numbers right?


Mon, Dec 6, 2010 : 12:21 p.m.

Huron Hills is under-utilized as a golf course as it is and if it were a 9 hole course, it wouldn't be used at all for golf. Even so, I do not believe the claim that the course is not self-sustaining or capable of being. I'd like to see that itemized. Even in its under-utilized state, I would much rather see it remain the way it is- a learning course for kids and a quick 18 after work in the summer for the rest. I learned to play there, I sledded (sled?) on it and cross country skied there in the winter. So if not a golf course, then semi-wild park land like the Arb. Disc golf, Parcors, whatever. This is what citizens of a city pay city taxes for. Parks, schools, roads, services, etc. Seems like a no-brainer. When you sell off the public lands and parks to private industry, you never regain it, no matter what was promised in the beginning. Take a drive around Detroit. If this Miles of Golf thing were given the go ahead and then fail, the facility would sit there for all eternity, like the Packard plant. Or would eventually be rows and rows of Mcmansions.


Sun, Dec 5, 2010 : 11:12 a.m.

This makes perfect sense...lets get it done.


Sat, Dec 4, 2010 : 8:09 p.m.

For a moment there I was sure that comment was an eloquent reply from Miles of Golf. Explaining the logic behind their need for City Financing (If not re-posted then what I saw was something like one cannot get a mortgage for another's building and property development). At the risk of being run out of town on a high speed rail from Fuller Park, here is another Machiavellian solution. Lets call it the fourth option: 1. Miles of Golf to purchase the affordable wooded portion of the 18 acres on Traverwood Drive being offered for sale by First Martin. Some of the land seems to abut the Leslie Golf course. 2. Just as the City once acquired Huron Hills, Mr. Mile accepts the City's offer to SWAP his own land for the unused strip of Leslie property near the clubhouse parking lot plus some greenbelt funds used to make up the land size difference. Like public park leasing, the City has only stretched the law a little bit and knows that that game is going to end real soon anyway. Technically, the overall size of Leslie Golf/Park actually grows in the deal so no park land is really lost from a public perspective. 3. Pro golfers have complained that Leslie needs a warm-up range and amenities shop so with the newly owned parcel of Leslie land complete with its shared City parking, Miles of Golf gets to work legitimately and sell its complete 'Golf Experience' to an eager public (and get a mortgage, and pay taxes, and complain about the City budget mismanagement). A Win-Win-Win for all. 4. Note- Leslie is nestled in a wooded basin out of sight from most of the surrounding residents. It is the number one municipal golf course about to get better and pay its own way. They maybe could use a winter sport activity there too. 5. Forget about Huron Hills.

Miles of Golf

Sat, Dec 4, 2010 : 6:57 p.m.

It is very legitimate to wonder why the Miles of Golf proposal has the City, and not Miles of Golf, investing $3M into the re-development of Huron Hills. The reason the City needs to make the investment is that the City will own the land and own the buildings. Because of this, it is almost impossible for Miles to finance the project. Remember that Miles is investing $250,000 and is paying off the Citys entire investment including the interest so at the end of the 20 year agreement, the city owns the buildings and improvements free of any debt. For Miles to fund the re-development would be like you going to a bank trying to get a mortgage on a new house when you wont in fact own the house or the land it is on. You can see the problem. We think it is important for the community to look at the Miles proposal in comparison with other options available to the City. We see 3 options for Huron Hills: #1. Continue as an 18 hole course with a subsidy from the City. #2. A City Miles partnership making Huron Hills into a difference golf experience. #3. Re-make Huron Hills into a different park experience (not golf). Lets look at the future of Huron Hills from strictly a financial perspective. The City seems to feel that option #3 is the most costly option because switching to a different, non- golf, use would require a larger subsidy than the subsidy of approximately $250,000 that Huron Hills Golf Course currently receives. We realize that there is not a consensus on the size of the subsidy and that arguments can be made that it will be greater or less than $250,000 in the future, but to think there will be no subsidy is not realistic. The Miles proposal will pay the City approximately $1M over the course of a 20 years agreement. This is over and above paying off the debt on the buildings. The exact amount the City receives depends upon the interest rate the City pays to borrow the money. Comparing proposals, there is a $6 million difference between the Miles proposal versus the City continuing to operate Huron Hills as an 18 hole golf course. Over the 20 year period, the Miles proposal pays the City $1M, continuing to operate it as an 18 hole golf course cost the City $5M. Lets now look at the future of Huron Hills as a park for the community to enjoy. It is pretty clear that Huron Hills Golf Course is great for some golfers but most golfers do not find it an appealing course. It is also pretty clear from our experience at Carpenter and Packard, that combining the Huron Hills golf course (9 holes) with a practice facility, teaching academy, and pro-shop will be something just about every golfer in the community would use and enjoy. The Miles proposal also leaves land available for other uses such as community gardens. If the City chooses to enter into a partnership with Miles of Golf to re-make Huron Hills into a new golf experience, it would be a spectacular new golf center and allow the City to redirect $6 million into the Citys parks, or fire department, or police department, or??? Miles of Golf is committed to being a good partner to the City, a good neighbor to people living around Huron Hills, and to offer a great facility for golfers in our community. Miles of Golf


Sat, Dec 4, 2010 : 6:01 p.m.

there are too many golf courses in the are. Huron Hills is NOT needed as a golf course. Turning at least 9 holes of the course into something else would be a smart move.


Sat, Dec 4, 2010 : 1:08 p.m.

O lawdy, NO!


Sat, Dec 4, 2010 : 12:11 p.m.

No! If Miles of Golf wanted some grass they should have bought Washtenaw Country Club. In fact, why don't they take their $250k and go talk w Polo Fields East? Maybe they will get the consideration they deserve there, a pat on the back and a suggestion they re-open Pat's Par 3 (once at their location) with their own 9 hole course & a amusement putting course. Huron Hills should not be broken down into a 9 hole course for any reason. Good Luck A2, I still love you.


Sat, Dec 4, 2010 : 12:05 p.m.

@ Stephen Landes I too wondered about A2 planning and how this little lease of friendly commercialization might somehow degrade into a full-blown disaster. Forcing a fire sale and ending as mass-housing and/or corner shopping at Huron Hills. But upon reading the RFP I felt reassured that the City showed no development intent because it seemed like it was an honest 20 year 'golf only' lease. So out from behind the curtain jumps the City's bedtime buddy - Miles of Golf - after several years of insider 'planning' to resurrect the golf couse. But despite the lead-time and obvious RFP tailoring for MOG, the highly successful group cannot even afford to take advantage of their own juicy deal. Requiring the City to put up with a $3 million risk on top of their multi-million tax subsidy is very weird. Machiavellian? Not yet. Now we learn that the City has 'fessed up to the fact that they have actually tried to parcel-out Huron Hills for developers once before. Even though Council members may swear up and down to the public that they would never. Okay, so maybe it is a Machiavellian plot now. Politicians lie and skirt the law. They have to be watched 24/7 and voted out of office 2/4. Governments are sued and sometimes City officials get e-caught and have to go to camp Kwami. Fraser's candid admission of past development efforts at Huron Hills and Rapundalo's tough questioning could all be designed to help diffuse the City's guilty profile in the subsequent court case if they proceed on with the MOG bid. Or it could just be a signal to eager developers to try later. Machiavellian? You bet!


Sat, Dec 4, 2010 : 11:50 a.m.

Ann Arbor like many older communities suffers from legacy costs associated with pensions and health care for retirees. Nationally, we are discussing raising the retirement age to 67-70. Yet, our city workers get full pensions after 30 years, with many retirees in their 50s. We cannot afford such benefits anymore; they are totally out of line with anything in the private sector. We have one of the highest property tax systems and yet the city is still broke. At some point, the tax base will shrink further if we do not control costs.


Sat, Dec 4, 2010 : 11:50 a.m.

I like the Miles of Golf plan. The city cannot afford to be in the golf business. Or maybe the neighbors can buy and maintain the property. But I am tired of paying for two money-losing golf courses. How about we close Huron Hills and the sell the land, and then worry about Leslie Park, which is the more viable of the two?


Sat, Dec 4, 2010 : 11:26 a.m.

I love the Miles of Golf plan and I also agree with @Tim about the income tax. But, it is not just the U of M. Many, many city employees live outside the city. They pay no city taxes but use the services and collect their paychecks. They are not subject to the many rules and regulations that we are, they just impose them on us and then go home to the townships to their much lower tax rate. Try to park on the old west side. We pay for the road and the upkeep but cannot park on the street anywhere near our own houses. The streets are filled with cars from outside the area. They park for free, walk downtown or to campus, and then leave town.


Sat, Dec 4, 2010 : 11:10 a.m.

We pay the parkland milage to puchase and maintain parkland and should should put the highest priority on the central part of the city before purchasing more land outside of the highway loop. Let's use those funds to save the Huron Hills parkland!!!! This is total disregard for the purpose of the milage!! The city should be ashamed for even considering this proposal.

Stephen Landes

Sat, Dec 4, 2010 : 10:13 a.m.

@ghost We are a bit beyond being governed by representatives when so many decisions are being made by remote committees, authorities, and commissions that have very limited elected representative content. Sure the council can say they have appointed people therefore these groups are responsible to Council, but far more often what I hear is Council saying "well, the commission/committee/authority says this is what needs to be done and who are we to say no?" In my opinion the Council seeks to distance itself from real decisions by deferring to these groups of "experts". This is no different from other levels of government which leave decisions ranging from pay to base closings to deficit reduction to a committee of largely unelected people so they don't have to do the real tough jobs. If Council spent its time hiring the city administrator, listening to the taxpayers, and then holding his feet to the fire instead of telling us we don't understand their message we might actually get somewhere.


Sat, Dec 4, 2010 : 8:28 a.m.

Ann Arbor is being dedicated to establishing a green belt around the area and concurrently is attempting to off-load a used park/green area within the city limits. The Ann Arbor Golf's Assoc. reported offer is much more in line with Ann Arbor's culture and needs. It eliminates the cost for the city, it preserves the course as a public park/golf course for the city. This is congruent with the Ann Arbor green belt plans. Commercializing a city owned park is a contradictory stance and needs to be voted down especially since the financial issue (rationale for Miles Golf proposal)is resolved by the organized group of residents who want to take on this golf course/park. Ann Arbor has budget issues no doubt, but trying to strip the city of the very assets that make Ann Arbor a good place to visit and live is not the prudent way to go. A city income tax is very long over due; it is the only measure that will assure that the people who work in Ann Arbor and use its facilities also help pay for these facilities. Come on city council - lets get moving on this!


Sat, Dec 4, 2010 : 2:54 a.m.

Chris Miles would certainly make a good run of it as he is a quality business man. Do we want to commercialize one of the only places in the area that kids/adults can go learn the game w/o the pressure and expense of commercial golf...part of learning isn't always a controlled lesson - its getting out and enjoying the game with your buds. Chris would make that experience a tad more expensive.

Stephen Landes

Sat, Dec 4, 2010 : 1:48 a.m.

@Jay Thomas The city administration has already proved that they can pave over a park and no one will notice: they paved over the parkland between Fuller and the railroad tracks below the hospital. What was supposed to be a temporary convenience somehow became a permanent fact of life. I don't trust these people one bit. I think they will do whatever they think they can get away with to satisfy what THEY think is in the best interests of our city regardless of the opinions of taxpayers. We are an inconvenient, but necessary, source of funds.

Stephen Landes

Sat, Dec 4, 2010 : 1:44 a.m.

I may be giving the city administration, committees, and council too much credit for deviousness, but I sense a multi-step plan here to resolve the city's retirement funding issues. The city administration knows it can't win a vote to sell the Huron Hills property outright now. There are too many arguments that could be raised about getting a professional outside company to manage the property for that proposal to fly. so, they take a multi-step approach: get a company like Miles of Golf to move onto the property. If they make a go of it and actually make a profit which contributes to the city coffers well and good; if not then when the venture fails the city administration will have no choice but to sell the property to pay off those bonds. They can tell us poor, unenlightened citizens that they did their best by hiring a pro, but it just can't be profitable. Then they can propose selling the property to the highest bidder. The results of the sale would be more than enough to pay the bonds and provide a substantial boost to the retirement trust fund. Too Machiavellian for you? I can see our city administrators' little wheels spinning round as they calculate the odds on getting this past the citizens, onto the ballot, and into their accounts.


Fri, Dec 3, 2010 : 10:27 p.m.

Brilliant. Huron Hills breaks even on its annual operations, and "loses" money only due to stupid accounting tricks which are applied later by city administrators. The administration's proposed "solution" to financially "fix" a golf course that's not actually losing money is to contract its operations to a private business at a cost to the city of just $3 million. Of course, the Miles of Golf staff & friends are here to tell us that's great idea.

Jay Thomas

Fri, Dec 3, 2010 : 10:08 p.m.

I don't care what they do with it as long as the land doesn't get paved over.


Fri, Dec 3, 2010 : 9:53 p.m.

Sell it outright or turn it into a park. Governments should stay out of profiit making enterprises. Governments have an unfair advantage in these kinds of enterprises and yet this one still can't make money.


Fri, Dec 3, 2010 : 9:47 p.m.

@Mick - Actually, Valiant's latest proposal for the hotel/conference center thing assumes all the financial risk (no bonds issued by the city) and reduces the size of the conference center itself. It is still a white elephant, whose biggest backer is the UM, presumably because of its proximity to the UM foodcourt called "Main St." How quaint the conferees will find it!!


Fri, Dec 3, 2010 : 9:30 p.m.

@5c0++... Miles of Golf (or any other driving range business) could not afford to buy the land for use as a driving range. This is primo real estate that Miles of Golf is getting for free (or maybe for $250,000). All they are willing to pay for is the building they would be adding to the space (after the city takes the risk for the bond). My guess is that this land is in the neighborhood of $150,000 an acre and we're putting a driving range on it? Notice where most driving ranges are - on the outskirts of town with cheaper land. And, often the driving range turns into a development once a developer eyes the big open piece of land This hits it right on the head. I love Miles of Golf and I think they do a great business. I like the idea of them taking over Huron Hills, but they should not get help in purchasing this land. If they can make it into a viable business, they can take on the risk themselves.


Fri, Dec 3, 2010 : 9:16 p.m.

I attended today's meeting. As I understand it, the city would receive revenue from the golf course only, none from any other facet of Miles of Golf's operation. Their projection of future revenue from the golf course was over optimistic, to say the least. I maintain that reducing the course to the back nine holes will be the death of the course. Huron Hills works because of the complimentary balance of the longer holes on the front and the shorter holes on the back. I don't think the shorter back nine would be able to survive on its own. Where does the city's revenue come from then? Will the back nine be the future target of further development? Voters passed the Greenbelt millage in order to prevent land outside the city from development and, here, the city is considering allowing private development on public parkland within the city! Insanity!!


Fri, Dec 3, 2010 : 8:50 p.m.

Right Dave, but if the city did that, would anyone want to develop here? The same deal was presented for the conference center on the library lot too at $8 million in bonds. I guess the key is taking the risk. Could be good, could be bad.

David Cahill

Fri, Dec 3, 2010 : 8:21 p.m.

I expect the City Council is not going to be thrilled at the concept of borrowing $3 million for Miles of Golf. Even Rapundalo has concerns! It would be simpler if the City would just include in its various requests for proposals a simple statement that no City financing will be forthcoming.

Peter Eckstein

Fri, Dec 3, 2010 : 8:16 p.m.

Didn't the city just agree to rehabilitate Argo Dam for well over a million dollars because it wanted to keep the pond as a place for recreational rowboating? Why do we think it essential to subsidize rowboating--and tennis, and ice skating, and skateboarding, and swimming--but criminal to maintain an 18-hole golf course without charging it for a share of the city administrator's salary, IT, etc. Huron Hills is a lovely park and offers a unique golfing experience, especially for juniors and seniors. It can be improved, possibly by having a private company like Miles of Golf run the operation and install better practice facilities in unused space. But let's not cripple the course by reducing it to nine holes--unless we are cutting back a whole slew of "subsidies" to parks and recreational facilities.


Fri, Dec 3, 2010 : 8:07 p.m.

This would be precisely why the "votes" on have a 100% track record at predicting exactly what council will *not* do! I think it's fun to leave it the way it is: the naysayer scallywags spend all day clicking "vote" and they end up losing at the council table regardless.


Fri, Dec 3, 2010 : 8:04 p.m.

As long as the golf courses are still golf courses, who cares who owns them. If the city can save and make money by selling some golf courses, and use the money to improve the roads and other public serves, Yes, Go sell them All.

Thomas J Schriber

Fri, Dec 3, 2010 : 7:28 p.m.

Hey Ryan Stanton, let me mention that I think has a flaw in its overall online voting procedure. Why? Well, as an experiment, and in terms of your Huron Hills article of today, I tried voting TWICE, and lo and behold, the software didn't block me from voting a second time after I'd already voted a first time. Bad news! This means it's possible for scallywags to "stuff the ballot box," and that the results of the vote can't be trusted. Please report this shortfall in the software to the webmaster for Thanks!

Left is Right

Fri, Dec 3, 2010 : 7:11 p.m.

After about four minutes of deliberation, I think something like this makes sense--as long as Mile puts together a credible business plan and passes due diligence (including public scrutiny). HH is not a very exciting course. The back nine seems pretty cramped in my memory and the front is like playing golf in a shopping mall parking lot. Turning the current front nine into a practice and teaching facility makes a lot of sense to me. Couple that with some branding that "golf is for everyone" to bring in new golfers and I think we'll have a winner (and it should help Mile sell lots of equipment). Golf has lost its relevance as a sport for many of us. Too much of the Oldsmobile crowd. Too many God's Gift to Golf golfers that get jacked into our groups to make a foursome. Maybe that's one reason so many courses are having problems--not just Huron. Maybe Miles can revitalize golf with a prominent facility at Huron that brings in new golfers. Maybe not. In my opinion, it's worth a shot. In any case, as I understand it, the City is not giving up title to the land.


Fri, Dec 3, 2010 : 6:46 p.m.

Okay Huron Hills is loosing $250k but city parks are not supposed to make money. And the composting operation is loosing $600k. No big deal there. I think the city would be foolish not to take a serious look at this proposal. A nine hole course with a premium facility can only turn around what is going on there now. Can't get much worse and other proposals are unacceptable. The front nine are flat and boring and covered with Canadian geese droppings anyway. Miles of Golf is a very successful thriving business. If they want to come into Ann Arbor and fix a problem, it is worth the effort. How many times has a business asked for financial assistance AND agreed to pay back the bonds? Why not put some of that green belt money into this too. I would rather keep this area green than some farm somewhere out thar. Anyone thinking there is a financial risk to this: There already is and always will be a financial risk in this property no matter what is done. It's a golf course that should be run by people who know golf. Does that make sense?


Fri, Dec 3, 2010 : 6:39 p.m.

What planet is Miles of Golf from?! Do they have brass (golf) balls there?! What part of no public money for private ventures do they not understand?! Whether for a convention center or a golf building, or a bank bailout, no more socializing the risks, while privatizing the profits. Those Miles of Golf guys have been spending too much time out in the sun... or something!!

Stephen Landes

Fri, Dec 3, 2010 : 6:25 p.m.

The proposal for (mis) use of Huron Hills sets a precedent for other parkland in our city. If the city can essentially commercialize Huron Hills then there is nothing that prevents them from doing exactly the same thing with any park in the city. For those who think this is just an issue for neighbors of Huron Hills just consider that the beloved park near your home provides NO revenue to offset its cost of existence. With Huron Hills commercialized what is there to stop the city from adding some revenue generating operation in your neighborhood park? The issue is as much the principle of protecting parkland as parkland as it is protecting Huron Hills from development. Huron Hills may look "dead" to someone with development opportunities in their heart, but to me it is beautifully alive, green, and well treed. How many of those trees are we going to let "miles of golf" cut down to build their driving range? They have a perfectly awful looking "dead" piece of property on Carpenter Rd that is perfectly suited to that purpose. Leave Huron Hills as it is. If we don't stop this now Leslie will be next. Before anyone says "but it loses money" let me tell you that from the numbers I have seen Huron Hills is a break even operation on its actual operating costs. The losses come from the city inexplicably tagging Huron Hills and Leslie with huge overhead charges that will not go away no matter what happens to Huron Hills. If the city applied the same overhead charges to other recreational property in the city then everything would be running at a "loss" and all would be targeted for "development".

Chrysta Cherrie

Fri, Dec 3, 2010 : 6:17 p.m.

The story has been updated to correct a typo.

Are you serious?

Fri, Dec 3, 2010 : 6:17 p.m.

For the moment let's assume the City is losing money on Huron Hills. So what. Is the City making money on the swimming pools? Is the City making money on Veteran Park? Will the City make money on the new water sculpture? The answer is probably "no" on all of those things. We are in tough financial conditions. In the worst case spend a minimal amount of money on mothballing Huron Hills so in the future when the economy recovers (it will, it always does) then we will still have Huron Hills. The City needs to stop thinking of short term stop gap measures to get it through the next couple of years. And yes I have golfed in Ann Arbor at Leslie and Huron Hills for over 30 years so do know something about golf courses. This isn't about the golf course - it is about a give away of $ and City owned land to a private business. This would be a huge subsidy for Miles of Golf. They do run a good business. I have spent many hours there but never felt that they needed to provide a golf course for my use.


Fri, Dec 3, 2010 : 5:37 p.m.

Roger Fraser says that the city wants to "preserve the land as a golf facility" while still recognizing his broken budget. And yet the RFP committee immediately rejected the only alternative bid which would have run Huron Hills Golf Course as a non-profit without any City financial aid. Why? (Maybe it was the NYT article about non-profits losing their tax-free status to help fix the Federal budget). Fraser may really be saying that he expects nothing less than a positive income to come from Huron Hills (which currently pays part of his own salary among others, hence the $250k annual "loss" even though HHGC breaks even). Face it Roger. The City has to raise more revenue or cut salaries (ahem). The University of Michigan is a great school and adds much to the ambiance and value associated with Ann Arbor (the DOD also spent $779 million here since 2000 - at least $50 million of which went through the UM). To help Mr. Fraser balance his budget, the UM should stop buying taxable A2 land and start paying its fair share of its real costs here. The UM could start by moving the hospital complex and its parking/transportation expense out to its East Health site. The UM could also stop pushing to erect more ugly buildings/convention centers when the next generation of successful alumni will likely attend the more tech-savvy institutions - online from their beautiful home/work/play lands - not A2 M-Urbia. That includes the desired 'gone-virtual' UM staff no longer local taxpayers here, either. No park support = No UM = No A2. Get it? The best schools will support their community. It is high time to bill auntie M for her own future sake, and ours. Michigan doesn't need to duplicate City services, either - A2 could provide many of them just as well- once it cleans house. Maybe Mile wants to be mayor? Remember the movie The Graduate where 'plastic' was the golden future? Well, that value now is just pure energy and intelligence. Provide these and your budget is fixed. Dump DTE and Comcastick and public-tize those products as City generated 'utilities' by the community for the community - including the UM and VA - and the parks will happily manage themselves for a long, long time. Mr. Mile and company did make a sharp presentation. He is a model businessman and should continue to run his business successfully - out on Carpenter Road.


Fri, Dec 3, 2010 : 5:37 p.m.

The city sub contracts parking to the DDA and they subcontract to Republic...just sub the course out the same way.


Fri, Dec 3, 2010 : 5:19 p.m.

how simple it is. not making money now will make money later. i think people would play more golf at 9 holes vs 18. willing to bet the percentage is more nine than eighteen right now. so why not try to bring things to make people play more golf. if you buy something you want to try it out. this means golf or range. if you keep 95% of what it is now. how can you say miles will change it. what 5% is not much. i think with the location and students in the area it will be better. i say go for it. it is not working now!!!! being in the area for 15 years tells you that this is not a fly by night company. it has been rated 5 stars in the golf digest for golf stores. you also have huron high school and greenshill close by. you could even bring in other high schools.

David Kempner

Fri, Dec 3, 2010 : 5:10 p.m.

The Miles of Golf proposal is definitely a win-win proposition. It has the potential to save, and greatly improve, golf at Huron Hills and create what has been accurately described as a "spectacular" full-service golf practice facility, while at the same time relieving the City of the burden or continuing to operate a money-losing and, quite frankly, tired and mediocre operation. Speaking as an avid golfer and also as one who knows the principals at Miles of Golf very well, I strongly believes that the City needs a facility like the proposed rejuvenated version of Huron Hills if we are going to pass along this wonderful game to future generations of golfers. I also believe that the people who run Miles of Golf are, without question, the best people to do this because they know and love golf, and over the past 15 years, have shown they know how to promote the game while running a very successful business. Finally, the prospects of having a first class practice facility where the current "front 7" holes are located are mind-boggling. I fully anticipate that Ann Arbor could end up with something that would be truly unique and special among municipal golf facilities, and that this facility would make the best possible use of the property both in terms of maintaining a parkland setting and promote golf in this area over the long-term. Those who are opposed to this proposal are, unfortunately, very short-sighted and they certainly don't appear to know anything about golf.


Fri, Dec 3, 2010 : 5:01 p.m.

I wanted to express my opinion about the privatization of the golf course. I disagree with that potential decision. I would suggest that they do something like the city of Toledo has done (since 1985). Those courses are administered by a private company. This saves money but still keeps major decisions (like eliminating holes) from being made without public input. This also provides a steady stream of income, as the contractor leases the courses from the city (the contractor paid the city of Toledo $156,903 in 2007 to lease all three courses) Since moving to the area (I currently live in Ypsilanti) I have had my father and brother to visit and play Huron Hills and it is a fun challenging course that they have enjoyed. I hope that they can see a way to continue to have the course in its current set-up. This link provides SOME background information about the management of Toledo Golf courses.


Fri, Dec 3, 2010 : 4:47 p.m.

A round of golf is 18 holes, not 9. The proposal is ridiculous. Plus, the novice/beginner cross country skiing area would disappear if the raise the front seven holes.


Fri, Dec 3, 2010 : 4:42 p.m.

It seems the better deal, since it is private enterpise,is for the company to put up the $3 million and the city $250 k. It seems likely that if they need the bond to complete the deal, they will not have suffcient capital and cash flow to make a profit. Perhaps another bad investment where the taxpayers will be left hold the bag.


Fri, Dec 3, 2010 : 4:38 p.m.

@tim - The income tax is no white knight. Maybe in the short term, yes, but in the long term, maybe 5 years, we will be right back where we are now. Every faction of city gov't will demand a share of that new cash and council and administration will cave to each of those demands. They have never ever demonstrated they have the ability to do anything different. Since it's not their money, city leaders, with very few exceptions, follow that path of least resistance.


Fri, Dec 3, 2010 : 4:36 p.m.

@5c0++... Miles of Golf (or any other driving range business) could not afford to buy the land for use as a driving range. This is primo real estate that Miles of Golf is getting for free (or maybe for $250,000). All they are willing to pay for is the building they would be adding to the space (after the city takes the risk for the bond). My guess is that this land is in the neighborhood of $150,000 an acre and we're putting a driving range on it? Notice where most driving ranges are - on the outskirts of town with cheaper land. And, often the driving range turns into a development once a developer eyes the big open piece of land.


Fri, Dec 3, 2010 : 4:35 p.m.

The City can not run a golf course period!! They will lose money every time. It only makes sense to allow a profit maker like Miles of Golf take it over and make the City money. They are a talented group that will not take advantage of the City and it's residents. The surrounding residents only want to keep this for their private use, if Miles of Golf takes it over there will be play, it will get used and they don't want that. A $3 mill bond is a small risk if the city can get out from under the financial burden of Huron Hills.


Fri, Dec 3, 2010 : 4:30 p.m.

Here is a link to the Miles of Golf Plan. Does it include that $250,000 surcharge to the city?

jack gorine

Fri, Dec 3, 2010 : 4:25 p.m.

I'm all for it, except for the bond issue. Let Miles come up with the funding and if they get it great. Otherwise, once the economy recovers so will the golf course. How the leadereship in this community can offer a bond sale at this time is counter intuitive. Let someone else assume the debt and the risk, otherwise LEAVE IT BE. We might be all be suprised.

5c0++ H4d13y

Fri, Dec 3, 2010 : 4:14 p.m.

Just sell the land to Miles of Golf and collect the tax money!

Phyllis J. Shelton

Fri, Dec 3, 2010 : 4:03 p.m.

My deceased spouse worked for the city of Ann Arbor from March 1953 thru March 1983. Upon retirement moved to FL In late fall 1975 He was promoted from greenskeeper at Huron to superintendent of the golf courses at which time the 3 courses were 86% self suppoting. Remember at that time there was still a sizable bond issue being paid off due to the development of the Leslie Golf Course. The end of the last fiscal year he was in charge the courses were 110% self supporting. That means the courses had 10% profit that went to the general fund to operate the city. What's happened??

Phyllis J. Shelton

Fri, Dec 3, 2010 : 4:01 p.m.

My deceased spouse worked for the city of Ann Arbor from March 1953 thru March 1983. Upon retirement moved to FL In late fall 1975 He was promoted from greenskeeper at Huron to superintendent of the golf courses at which time the 3 courses were 86% self suppoting. Remember at that time there was still a sizable bond issue being paid off due to the development of the Leslie Golf Course. The end of the last fiscal year he was in charge the courses were 110% self supporting. That means the courses had 10% profit that went to the general fund to operate the city. What's happened??


Fri, Dec 3, 2010 : 4:01 p.m.

I am a City of Ann Arbor resident. I was born and raised here. I currently live on the Old Westside. I do not want a commercialization of any our city parks. Once the Mayor and City Council get a foothold on developing a Business at Huron Hills, then which of our precious city parks will be next? The beauty of this city is its parks. Huron Hills maybe considered a "golf course", but to most Ann Arbor residents it is a PARK that is used mostly to play 18 holes of golf. We must not allow Miles of Golf to make money off the backs of Ann Arbor taxpayers. Once this land is changed, with new buildings, etc, it will never be the same. Please do not kiss Huron Hills or any other city park good bye for the sake of the all mighty dollar. Save our parks for our children and grandchildren.


Fri, Dec 3, 2010 : 3:56 p.m.

This looks like a viable alternative for the City. The people at Miles have an outstanding reputation in the golf community and seem to be good businesspeople. That should be verified by looking at their book, but I'm pretty sure they know their business. The $3M bond issue is no big deal, in my opinion. Unless I'm wrong, the way this works is that the City issues the bonds and they get paid back from the profits that Miles of Golf makes. Miles makes the payments, not the taxpayers. Whet is the problem with this.? It lowers the monthly payments for Miles (because they get a better interest rate) allowing the business to be stronger. This ensures Miles ability to pay off the bonds. Yes, there's a danger that Miles goes out of business before the bond gets paid off, but that's why having a company with a rep and a track record like Miles is important. The alternative is to continue to lose $250,000/year (even if that IS and accounting gimmick) or turning a nice beginners golf coure into a big, boring open field with no golf. And, BTW, would you "Strip Mall NIMBY's" please stop spouting your BS!

Thomas J Schriber

Fri, Dec 3, 2010 : 3:51 p.m.

Jud Branam is on target. 2nd Ward Councilperson Steve Rapundolo is on record as stating (in email) that in terms of operating expenses, Huron Hills comes close to breaking even. (Of course, the city has to account for its overall expenses in one way or other. For example, my understanding is that something like $50,000 is charged to Huron Hills annually for the citys retirement fund, but I cant vouch for that.) And at this morning's meeting at City Hall, Chris Mile stated that the 2010 revenue at Huron Hills increased by 15% over the 2009 revenue. Indeed, in his financial analysis Mr. Mile appealed to that 15% growth rate in projecting increasing Huron Hills revenue over time. Although the sincerity, honesty, and good intentions of the Miles of Golf proposal was evident in this mornings presentation (and was appreciated), some of us dont think the proposal computes when the degree of risk to the city is taken into account, quite apart from the overriding consideration that some of us think the proposed commercialization of a big chunk of prime city parkland doesnt pass the test of reason, and might even be the thin edge of the wedge relative to eventual future uses of other tracts of city parkland.


Fri, Dec 3, 2010 : 3:47 p.m.

He fixed up Pats Par 3 nicely..Let the Miler at Huron Hills!


Fri, Dec 3, 2010 : 3:36 p.m.

I go to Huron Hills in the winter and cross-country ski. This summer I took up golf and golfed there for the first time. What a beautiful place! I don't know what work the city has done so far to try to reduce the losses, but hey, since we're the 2nd smartest city, wouldn't you think we could get some of the smart citizens together to come up with some ideas for improvement that don't include a $3 million, risky, bond? I'd be happy to participate if we could have access to the records for the last few years. There must be some opportunities to reduce costs and increase revenues. I'd love to see the golf course remain vital.

Blue Eyes

Fri, Dec 3, 2010 : 3:34 p.m.

Fraser is saying "alarmists who are willing to suggest that whatever we're doing is not going to be honestly stated, and it doesn't seem to matter what we tell them," We must have missed the part where the City admitted that Miles of Golf has been having private meetings with the City for the past year - way before the RFP was ever issued! No wonder the RFP sounds like it was written for Miles of Golf! First the Library Lot, now the golf course! Miles should be disqualified from the entire process!!


Fri, Dec 3, 2010 : 3:33 p.m.

Heardoc it will be subsidized by the city --for $3 million dollars!


Fri, Dec 3, 2010 : 3:32 p.m.

I Know people don't like the idea of a city income tax, but if you charged a small percent of payroll tax on people that work in Ann Arbor then you'll have all those people working at the U pitching in to help fund things like the golf course and leaf pickup etc. Lets face it Ann Arbor the problem is that the U doesn't pay taxes.


Fri, Dec 3, 2010 : 3:28 p.m.

The non-profit group was thrown out because it did not have an aim of raising money for the city. It just brought the costs down to "0" for the city by saying it didn't need the $250,000 IT/ADM charge. If/when the city turns this into a park, they'll have to live without that IT/ADM charge as parks don't pay that fee.


Fri, Dec 3, 2010 : 3:27 p.m.

This is a good idea and should be explored further. The more we turn facilities over to for profit groups the more we will see in benefits, The city should assist in providing recreation but here is a proposal that is a win for the city and a win for the public -- THE COURSE WILL REMAIN PUBLIC. The course will no longer be subsidized by the city and we will have a much better facility. n o boos here -- just glad to see american ingenuity and private business coming in to provide a service, at a profit, that the city cannot.


Fri, Dec 3, 2010 : 3:07 p.m.

BOOOOOO to Miles of Golf, keep Huron Hills public!


Fri, Dec 3, 2010 : 2:54 p.m.

Can they put in the Bond issue Pick up Xmas trees Everyone will be happy


Fri, Dec 3, 2010 : 2:48 p.m.

This is all just a symptom of a much more massive problem coming down the road. The city needs to cut services and earn more money to support what's left. It's too bad that Miles of Golf is asking the city to take a financial risk on this deal, but the point is that we're going to have to outsource a heck of a lot more in the future. My guess is that council will opt for cuts that don't enrage rich neighborhoods who don't want to see anything different.


Fri, Dec 3, 2010 : 2:44 p.m.

How is the city losing $250K a year mowing some tax-free grass that generates revenue? Take away the IT chargebacks and other City Hall bookkeeping tricks and there's no way that place is costing us money.