For the first five years of Shiloh Springs existence, developer Gary Martin kept the golf course in the black. That success in those first five years of operation he attributes to the devotion and dedication of his family and employees of Shiloh Springs Golf Course, located east of Platte City.
“I believe the success was because we had PGA professionals, which was one of the requirements of operation with the county, and the people we hired were good with the public and knew the golf business,” said Martin. “We also adequately supplied a pro-shop with equipment and had a full line of products and services, including food services.”
“The combination of that and the definite need by the community and the county as a whole for a golf course, were all factors in it’s success.”
A spreadsheet summary outlining the expenditures and revenues for years 1995-2005 provided by the Platte County Auditor’s office, shows that during Martin’s operation the golf course profited.
“In looking back I think that the county was not as substantial as an investor in the golf course as when he (Martin) ran it,” said County Auditor Sandra Thomas. “The agreement was written in such a way that the county was probably best off when he ran it because when he was running it the county didn’t have to pay the land lease payment and he was responsible for making the payment to the Bank of New York towards the debt.”
From 1995-1999, the county profited under Martin’s management as revenues remained on a steady climb each year.
“We charged a park fee and collected it on behalf of the parks each month,” said Martin. “It created additional revenue for the county and became a profit center for the county. Each year the county received an extra $12-17,000 towards their parks system.”
In 1995, the golf course brought in $12,160 in revenues, for the county; in 1996, revenues rose to $13,531. The year 1997 marked the largest revenue increase to $16,972. The final two years of Martin’s operation saw an increase in 1998 to $17,316 and in 1999 a total of $17,737.
Along with seeing an increase in revenue over five years, Martin said the day-to-day operations of the course paid for the bonds and land lease.
“When we ran it, the county made money. We managed to pay off bonds, the interest on the bonds and the park fees,” stated Martin.
After Martin operated the course in the beginning, commissioners Betty Knight, Michael Short and Diza Eskridge elected to not renew Martin’s lease in the late 1990’s.
“I believe during the fifth year of operations, the county had the option to run the golf course and or give it to different management,” said Martin. “They elected they would rather take it under their own wing.”
Presiding Commissioner Betty Knight said the former commission’s decision to look at different management was due to state law.
“When you have parks amenities like that you have to bid out the management of the golf course and that’s what we had to do,” said Knight. “We were following statute. It has since been changed, but that was what the statute had said at that time.”
Knight responded to the accusation that the county wanted to operate Shiloh Springs because they saw that Martin was making a profit.
“There were never any requirements for him to show us the books and we never saw any of the books or any calculations from Gary Martin. So, I had no idea if he was making any money or not,” said Knight.
Thomas agreed with Knight and said that while Shiloh was making money during the Martin years, there was a downside in his operations for the county.
“The downside of Martin running it was that the county had no access to financial information of the golf course. So when we started running it, it was kind of blind because we had no way of knowing what happened there before,” said Thomas.
She recalled the 1994 audit involving Martin and the bonds surrounding the construction of the golf course.
“We had to subpoena Martin for the original construction records for our 1994 audit. We had $3.8 million in bonds and had no record of how the money had been spent,” stated Thomas.
The golf course hasn’t made money since the county placed it under its wings, losing around half a million annually when bond payments are included in the cost of doing business.
Martin said he believes it all comes back to the devotion and dedication of the management team.
“I wouldn’t use the word wrong,” Martin said regarding his description of the county’s operation of the course. “Any operation is a learning experience and they relied upon a management team that they put together and I think that their management team didn’t have the personal interest my family had in it when we were there.”
According to Martin, he still holds out hope for the success of the course.
“I think that with some direct involvement from the current commission and from the people they can rely upon and proper management, I believe the golf course could be very successful,” stated Martin. “There’s no reason it can’t be very successful under the commissioners guidance and oversight.”
For Martin, the future of Shiloh Springs rests in the county commission’s and management’s vision of the course.
“You need to have the right people, the right vision and the right interest by the people that are there,” said Martin.
“I can’t overemphasize the importance of truly having a personal desire that the golf course is successful. Not just because it was a business but because the people take pride in what they are accomplishing there—that’s when something becomes successful.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE: In last week’s issue of The Landmark, it was reported that $460,000 in bond money was placed in an interest-bearing account for the county, with the plan in 20 years to provide the county with enough money to purchase the course from Martin for $1.6 million. According to Platte County Auditor Sandra Thomas, the money was set aside in a capitalized interest account to be used for interest payments during the construction period of the golf course. Thomas stated that the money was not intended for the purchase of the course from Martin, but instead was expended for the interest of construction.)