Breaking down the $15 million Glencoe Golf Referendum
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Glencoe residents are facing a $15 million question this election that will decide the fate of the Glencoe Golf Club.
The Glencoe Golf Club is a nonprofit, self-funded entity that is governed by the Village of Glencoe and its Village Board. The board decided in December to ask local voters if the Village can issue up to $15 million in general obligation bonds to fund a new clubhouse and other facility improvements.
The 101-year-old public course covers 126 acres spread across land owned by the Village of Glencoe and Forest Preserve of Cook County. The current clubhouse remains the original building, and course General Manager Stella Nanos told the Village Board in 2022 that it surpassed its useful life in 2012.
Approximately 44,000 rounds of golf are played at Glencoe Golf Club each year, according to village documents.
That year, 2012, the village-organized Clubhouse Task Force recommended for the replacement of the clubhouse and proshop buildings. In the subsequent years, a plan was made to replace the structures, and Friends of Glencoe Golf Club was formed in 2019 to garner support for new amenities — highlighted by a multi-purpose clubhouse — that could make the golf course site a community venue.
The enhanced facilities would include upgrades to the driving range, cart paths, parking lot, stormwater management, and outdoor and indoor golf training facilities. Community-focused features (a restaurant with bar, meeting room, private-party space and youth-program facilities) and green initiatives are also part of the plan.
Along with the modernized facilities, the venue would receive a new name: the Club at Glencoe, suggesting a more flexible and year-round site that would also host cross-country skiing, sledding, summer events, croquet, and even more golf (outings, more rounds, etc.)
According to Village projections, the $15 million referendum would be about $140 per $10,000 in annual property taxes per Glencoe household. The bond repayment is projected to last 20 years.
The Village says that the taxes are “expected” to be partially offset by incremental revenue achieved by the new golf-course facilities and by funds raised by the Friends of Glencoe Golf Club ($500,000 as of 2022). For every $100,000 of incremental net revenue the club achieves, according to the village, the Village Board could decide to reduce taxes by $10 per $10,000 paid per household.
“It is our goal to reduce the overall bond-funded portion of the project to be less than the $15 million authority that the referendum question seeks,” according to the Village’s referendum-information page.
Support and Opposition
Golf club and village officials have emphasized the need for a new clubhouse to replace the aging and overworked current buildings.
The Village says many of the planned amenities for the site meet requests made by residents in a 2019 community survey. In the survey, more restaurants (73%) and an event space (46%) topped respondents’ wishlists.
The Friend of the Glencoe Golf Club’s motto is “More Than A Golf Club” and calls the club an “important symbol of our Village” that can provide more than golf to Glencoe “for the next 100 years.”
The referendum was the topic of a discussion on the social media platform Nextdoor (must have Nextdoor account to view). The post garnered more than 100 comments between proponents and opponents of the ballot question.
Louis Goldman, a former Glencoe Library Board president (2011-2019) and Glencoe Plan Commission member, was among those who interacted with the post. He said that the club’s enhancements will not serve enough Glencoe residents to be worth the investment, citing the relatively small percentage of Glencoe residents who golf at the facility.
Of golf rounds played in 2022, less than 25 percent were played by residents; however, approximately 85 percent of the club’s golf-camp participants are Glencoe residents, said Nikki Larson, the Village’s Finance Director.
“I don’t think this has sufficient direct benefit to Glencoe,” Goldman told The Record. “… I think the $15 million amount, even if we’re going to rebuild (the clubhouse), is excessive. It’s a community golf course, not a country club.”
According to info from the Village of Glencoe, an enhanced clubhouse with dining and beverage service will allow for outings and private events in an effort to bolster incremental revenue.
A smaller footprint, the Village says, “does not have a major impact on overall costs but will reduce the ability to generate incremental revenue.”
Twenty-five-year Glencoe resident Rick McCallion said everyone likes more dining options but the golf course’s clubhouse, which is located within a residential neighborhood, is not the right site to meet that desire.
He doesn’t think the numbers will add up.
“It’s very hidden. No one is going to know about it,” said McCallion, who lives with walking distance of the Glencoe Golf Club. “… Selfishly, would I love a place to have a drink and grab dinner? Yea, that would be great. But I think it’s bad fiscal decision-making.”
VILLAGE OF GLENCOE: GOLF CLUB REFERENDUM
Referendum Amount: up to $15 million
Cost to Taxpayer (estimated, annual): $140 per $10,000 in property taxes
Tax Abatement Potential: Incremental revenue from course, fundraising dollars, grants
Recent Successful Referenda: 2021 ($10 million, infrastructure projects); 2015, 2012, 2009, 2005
Project Highlights: Clubhouse rebuild to include restaurant/bar, meeting room, private-party space, winter-activity amenities and youth-program facilities, as well as upgraded driving range, cart paths, parking lot, stormwater management, and outdoor and indoor practice facilities on the grounds.
The Ballot Question
“Shall the Village of Glencoe, Cook County, Illinois, which commissioned a feasibility study of its publicly owned and operated golf course clubhouse and related facilities, and subsequently evaluated deteriorating conditions and the increasing costs of repairs, replace the clubhouse structure with a new, multi-purpose facility to include a restaurant and event space that would be open and available to the public and that will also expand opportunities for community use of the property year-round, and make other necessary improvements to the parking lot and infrastructure and issue its general obligation bonds to the amount of $15,000,000 for the purpose of paying the costs thereof, said bonds bearing interest at not to exceed the rate of 7% per annum?”
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Joe Coughlin is a co-founder and the editor in chief of The Record. He leads investigative reporting and reports on anything else needed. Joe has been recognized for his investigative reporting and sports reporting, feature writing and photojournalism. Follow Joe on Twitter @joec2319