Bond sale referendum needed for Glencoe Golf Club renovation

After years of concern regarding the condition of the facilities at the Glencoe Golf Club, the village may soon be asking its residents to support a new clubhouse project with a price tag of at least $10 million.

Village officials are contemplating placing a bond sale referendum in next April’s municipal elections. If successful, the proceeds would be used for a series of upgrades at the golf club including replacement of the existing clubhouse, pro shop and maintenance building.

As far back as 2012, a clubhouse task force determined was clubhouse, now more than 100 years old, was beyond its useful life, according to village documents.

A proposed site plan calls for a new maintenance building constructed adjacent to the 14th hole with a new clubhouse and pro shop combined into one building. In addition, there would also be a year round restaurant, a conference/private party room with a terrace overlooking the golf course, bike repair station, a community garden and an event lawn for children-friendly activities as well as building a new croquet court .

“It really is for the community, it just happens to be on the golf course. It is going to have something for everyone,” Golf Club Executive Director Stella Nanos said. “This is an urgent project to be done right now. It is not a grandiose plan, it is giving us what we need to continue to operate successfully and be competitive in this market and also offer the residents a great new amenity to the village.”

It is unclear how much the project would cost. At one time, the village received a cost estimate of $10 million, but Nanos indicated costs may now be higher now given inflation and supply chain issues.

Earlier this year, Finance Director Nikki Larson estimated the impact if the measure is supported at an additional $70-$80 per $10,000 in property taxes, but cautioned those numbers could change depending on the scope of the project and interest rates.

Village trustees were expected to receive updated cost figures later this year leading up to a decision to put a question on the ballot next April.

With the goal of raising private funds to offset some of the construction costs, the village established in 2019 the Friends of the Glencoe Golf Club. Earlier this year, a professional campaign director was hired to lead the fundraising effort.

Village officials noted the goal of the group is to raise between $2 to $4 million through naming rights, grants and gifts. Thus far, they have raised over $300,000, Nanos said.

Nanos acknowledged the slow pace of the campaign, saying, “We were overly optimistic as to how quickly we would be able to ascertain donations when in fact any type of campaign does take several years.”

With private funds likely not available to pay for the full renovation, taxpayer dollars may become necessary.

“I don’t think anyone ever expected that we would be able to raise 100% of the cost of the project,” Nanos said. “Our goal was to raise as much as possible to help offset the cost.”

There is also an acknowledgment that there is now stronger competition in the area for golfers as the re-branded Heritage Oaks Golf Club in Northbrook and Highland Park’s Sunset Valley have been refurbished in recent years with major investments from their communities.

The reality that Glencoe offers few options for people to stay at the club — particularly in terms of being able to eat — is a source of trepidation Village Trustee Joe Halwax, the village board’s liaison to the Glencoe’s Golf Advisory Committee.

“I still think we have the best golfing in terms of the course of the public courses in the northern suburbs. But clearly where we need to step up the game in that other part of the experience” Halwax said.

The question is whether the residents — which supported two infrastructure bonds in recent years and was part of the 2014 greater township vote supporting a large renovation of New Trier High School’s Winnetka campus — will now pay for a major face-lift at the Glencoe Golf Club .

“We are going to get their feedback and I hope we can convey what a wonderful opportunity this is,” Halwax said.

Halwax did not rule a scaled-back version if voters don’t support the current plan.

“We can’t continue with the way it is, so we are going to have to determine what its future is. This is plan A and we have asked the staff for a Plan B,” Halwax said.

When the village board will officially decide to put the referendum on the ballot is still to be determined. To get the measure on the next April’s ballot, village trustees must act no later than their December meeting, according to Village Manager Phil Kiraly.

Daniel I. Dorfman is a freelance reporter with Pioneer Press.

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