The National Park Service has approved the agreement between Myrtle Beach and an outside firm to begin managing the failing Whispering Pines Golf Course.
If Myrtle Beach City Council approves the concessionaire agreement with Murrells Inlet-based Atlantic Golf Management during Tuesday’s meeting, the firm could take over operations beginning Friday, assistant city manager Ron Andrews said.
The park service had to approve the plan because the U.S. government gave the former Air Force base golf course to the city when the base closed in 1993. The course must be used for golf or other recreation and cannot be leased to another entity.
“We’re ready for some good things to happen out there,” Andrews said.
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City Council in August approved first reading of an ordinance that establishes the agreement with Atlantic Golf.
The agreement allows a six-month transition period for the course’s nine employees, where the city will pay the difference between the rate those working at Whispering Pines currently receive and the compensation that comparable private sector positions receive.
The city pays Whispering Pines employees an average of $14.72 per hour. Chip Smith, who owns Atlantic Golf Management and TPC Myrtle Beach, pays $9 per hour, assistant city manager Ron Andrews said.
After the six months, employees can inquire about working for Atlantic Golf or find employment elsewhere. There also may be opportunities for employees to find other positions within the city.
“There are still six employees there,” Andrews said. “I know for a fact that two have moved to other positions with the city.”
Additionally, Atlantic Golf will pay the city 3.5 percent of gross revenues once the course makes more than $1.1 million. City officials say the course has operated at a loss of about $250,000 a year for the past four years.
Andrews said the city had been spending about $1.1 million annually to maintain and operate the course.
The agreement also establishes a capital improvement program where Atlantic Golf will contribute money to the city annually if the course makes more than $1 million in gross revenue. The city will set that money aside to be used for a list of projects for improvement, with the first being the replacement or improvement of the existing clubhouse.
City Council also will be asked to approve an agreement with Atlantic Golf to operate and maintain the driving range adjacent to the golf course. The city has leased the driving range from Horry County for $22,700 a year. Atlantic Golf will reimburse that cost as well as pay the city 10 percent of any revenue exceeding $22,700.
The city has struggled to determine how best to handle the 6,700-yard course, which first opened for play in 1962 and is the only city- or government-owned course among about 100 on the Grand Strand.