TALLEVAST -- The Sarasota Manatee Airport Authority is looking to get a small windfall as the new owners of the Suncoast Golf Center take over a lease and pay nearly $50,000 in delinquent rent from the previous managers.
Suncoast Golf LLC, led by golf pro Scott Lamoureaux of Lakewood Ranch, is looking to take over the lease from Bullas Golf Inc. for the nine hole, par-3 course and driving range at 7741 15th St. E. The new company is looking to buy Bullas' assets by Oct. 1. Bullas owed $49,711.58 in back rent.
The new owners plan to invest $225,000 in maintenance and capital improvements to help turn the golf course around and market the facility. Improvements include new white bunker sand, overseeded greens, new short game practice green and bunkers, high quality synthetic turf on practice tee, new wall along driving range, a high-tech launch monitor and even $7,500 worth of high quality practice balls, according to airport authority documents.
"We want to bring back the service and quality of the golf course," said Lamoureaux, a golf consultant. "In a month or two, you'll notice a big difference."
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The course will move away from the help-yourself approach to having more staff and a full-service golf club, he added. Just the smallest things like buying new Titlelist practice balls is expected to help bring people back.
"There have been people who have stopped practicing in the last year or so
because the balls have gotten very old and worn out," he said. "We're going to replace all range balls with Titlelist balls."
Lamoureaux has years of experience as a golf pro, and is the general manager of the Esplanade Golf & Country Club in Lakewood Ranch and was the golf director for the Lakewood Ranch Golf and Country Club from 2001 to 2011. Other people involved in the venture, according to Florida business filings, include Ben Best of Sarasota real estate firm Development Logistics Group and Lou Marinaccio, president and CEO of Lakewood Ranch-based MGA Insurance Group and Ann Marie Marinaccio, chief financial officer of MGA.
The airport authority will consider the request at its Monday meeting, scheduled for 1 p.m. at the Dan P. McClure Auditorium, 5900 Airport Auditorium Lane.
The golf course was closed for about a year from late 2011 to mid-2012 while Lockeheed Martin Corporation completed remediation for groundwater contamination. During that time the former owners completed some renovations, including a teaching studio.
"The course has been open for over a year since all the work has been done," said Fredrick "Rick" Piccolo, president of the airport authority and chief executive officer of SRQ airport. "The remediation still goes on with Lockheed Martin."
Piccolo said locals use the course most frequently because it is a par-3 course with a driving range. Suncoast Golf Center is also the region's only indoor/outdoor golf facility and the only facility with lights for evening play.
Those factors allow the facility to be marketed to both local pros who can practice at night when their courses aren't available and to the casual golfer looking for a night out.
"We want to have leagues with some of the local businesses," Lamoureaux said. Similar to a bowling league, it would allow people to come out during the evening and play a 60-to-90-minute round of golf and have a beer, creating a more affordable and time conscious option for golfers, he said.
Plans are also in the works to host PGA chapter events, bringing in pros for skins games, he added.
The lease with the airport is proposed to be extended five years from July 31, 2018, ending July 31, 2023. The ground rent will decline from $3,500 to $2,000 per month then increase in 2018 based on cost of living adjustments, according to the proposed lease. The golf course will pay five percent of annual gross revenues if they exceed $265,000, according to the proposed lease.
The golf course also plans to become an official First Tee facility, which would work with the non-profit organization to teach children and teens from Manatee and Sarasota counties life skills through golf lessons, according to a letter to the airport board from First Tee Sarasota Manatee executive director Lexi McKenney. The golf course would become the organization's permanent home, McKenney said in the letter. Lamoureaux has been a member of the chapter's board since 2005, according to the letter.
Charles Schelle, Herald business reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7095. Follow him on Twitter @ImYourChuck.