Dumb Ideas, Hot Dogs and Golf

Really dumb ideas (Pension Obligation Bonds, starting up a restaurant) get justified even without any proof that a government can make them work.  Vested interests sucker gullible, venal politicians into believing they can turn any half-assed project into gold since the politicians are infallible.  After all, didn’t they just win an election?

The POB ploy blew up in Detroit and in Union County it’s the Red Knot. Both ideas seemed really stupid at the time but upon reflection…..

they’re the product of an unfathomable level of delusion and ignorance.  POBs I’ve covered before and it gets dumber every time I revisit the concept.  But the lunacy of having a government run an upscale restaurant and banquet facility at a golf course only hit me when I saw this scene from Stanley Tucci’s ‘Big Night’:



The Red Knot recently opened at Galloping Hill Golf Course and OpenTable put them in the $31-$50 price range.  The menu is currently down on their website but the Ordinance setting prices had a hot dog at $8 and a hamburger from $11 – $14.  How many chefs in upscale eateries get to ply their culinary skills on justifying $8 hot dogs?

But it gets even dumber.  As it happens a half mile from the Red Knot is the Galoping Hill Inn – privately run and always included on lists of New Jersey’s best hot dogs.  If you wanted a hot dog why would you go to the government facility where you would be paying five times as much (when you include the costs of the gratuity and valet parking) for your food?  The service?

And dumbest of all is that this facility will lose millions of dollars to justify its existence through propaganda.

Since 2009 Union County has paid over $35,000 to New Jersey Monthly and it bought them a feature story in the July issue on the 40 best public golf courses in New Jersey.  Galloping Hill came in at number 33 and Ash Brook was number 36.  There were 32 other courses in 13 other counties who did not spend (supposedly) $17.6 million on their operations who still came out ahead of the  Galloping Hill money pit and even Ash Brook, without tens of millions of dollars being sunk into it, managed to come within 3 slots of Galloping Hill.

But the interesting aspect of this publicity was the machinations that the NJ Monthly staff had to go through, from distractions to outright lying, to make their puff piece fly.  Some excerpts form the article with (my comments):

The selection of Galloping Hill—a Union County course where registered residents can play 18 holes on a weekend for just $31 ($47 with cart)—is the fruit of a rare public-private partnership: Union County; the NJSGA; Kemper Sports, a leading golf course management company; and TaylorMade, the world’s No. 1 golf-equipment maker, have together brought about a stunning turnaround for a course that just seven years ago was an embarrassment  (like every other area that is within the direct control of this dysfunctional system of governance) .

Maintenance on the 27-hole layout was slipshod….Galloping Hill in the early 2000s “was being run like a park,” says Armando Sanchez, who was hired as Union County’s director of golf operations in 2008. “The attitude was, ‘If we don’t cut the greens today, we’ll cut them tomorrow.’” (2008: 11 years into total Democrat control and 7 years into the Devanney era.  Was it Bush’s fault?)

(The next four paragraphs are on the food in a restaurant and banquet center that was still months from opening at press time.)

“When golfers come to Galloping Hill now,” Sanchez points out, “they receive treatment they usually see only at high-end daily-fee and private courses. But most important, they will be doing so at very affordable prices.” (Since Union County taxpayers will be squeezed for the millions of dollars this fiasco will lose every year.)

In 1995, the county hired prominent New Jersey-based golf architect Stephen Kay to renovate Galloping Hill. The project, completed in 2000, used three different contractors, of whom the first two had little or no golf experience. In the end, says one veteran observer, Galloping Hill got only “a Band-Aid.” (So what were the first two contractors experienced in? Political donations?)

By 2007, Galloping Hill—far from being ready to wrest the most prestigious state championship from the private clubs—was barely holding on. That year, for the first time, the Union County Board of Chosen Freeholders examined the economics of its three golf courses separately from the operation of the Department of Parks and Recreation. It discovered that golf was losing about $500,000 a year. (They lied.)

Devanney brought in Sanchez, who has a degree in golf management and had worked with Jack Nicklaus’s Golden Bear Industries. (No experience in personal training?  And where does one get a degree in golf management?)

In 2009, the county signed a five-year contract with Kemper Sports to manage the daily operation of Galloping Hill and Ashbrook. In the deal, expected to be renewed when it expires at the end of next year, Kemper is paid a monthly management fee, and the county retains all revenues except for retail sales in the pro shop. (That’s a lie.  Kemper also gets a cut of gross revenue over a certain amount plus construction management fees.  For 2012 Kemper got $4,224,630.76 out of the county including $56,768,66 as an incentive fee.)

The freeholders took the biggest step in 2010, when they approved $17.6 million in bonds to pay for the Learning Center, a new maintenance facility and the new clubhouse, whose second floor includes a large banquet hall—expected to produce significant revenue for the county (which will go to Kemper, DeCotiis, Netta, et. alia while the county absorbs the far more significant expenses.)

In June of this year, the clubhouse opened with the NJSGA’s flag flying from the roof. “It’s a dream come true,” (finding these chumps) says NJSGA executive director Steve Foehl. “It’s vital to our branding to be associated with a first-class facility like Galloping Hill.” In the first two years, the association will pay the county $5,000 a month rent; then the sum will increase 3 percent every three years till the end of the 10-year lease. By the end of May, the banquet space had already booked 80 events through 2016. “We are on target to hit about $5.6 million in revenue this year,” says Sanchez, “with operational costs at about $5.3 million.” (by county math).

The next phase begins this fall, when Montclair’s eminent golf architect, Rees Jones, known as the Open Doctor, begins preparing the course for the 2016 NJ Open. While 200 to 300 yards will be added to Galloping Hill’s 6,639-yard length, much of the work—like bunker renovations—will aim to “restore the classic feel of the golf course,” says Jones, “and provide regular golfers with as enjoyable an experience as possible” (and taxpayers with as excruciating an experience as possible).

One response to this post.

  1. Posted by Javagold on July 18, 2013 at 5:19 pm


    5…4….3…2….Coming to a own near YOU !!!!!!!


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