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posted: 12/10/2011 7:45 AM

Gurnee back in golf business at Bittersweet for 2012

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  • Bittersweet Golf Club in Gurnee has fallen into foreclosure.

      Bittersweet Golf Club in Gurnee has fallen into foreclosure.
    PAUL VALADE | Staff Photographer

  • Kristina Kovarik

    Kristina Kovarik


Gurnee will remain in the golf course business for another year with the hiring of a management company to operate the 18-hole layout the village took over last summer.

Chicago-based Starbird Links Golf Management will receive $65,000 to run Bittersweet Golf Club on Gurnee's west side near Almond Road and Grand Avenue. The deal will run from Jan. 1 through Dec. 31, 2012.

As part of the deal, Starbird can earn a management incentive fee equal to 10 percent of golf course revenue that tops expenses. Starbird also can make money off golf clinics and lessons along with the pro shop.

Village board trustees this week voted 6-0 in favor of the contract with Starbird Links. The company ran Bittersweet for the village in 2011.

"The agreement has been mutually beneficial," Mayor Kristina Kovarik said.

Gurnee formally took possession of the long-struggling links last April. The village board voted to spend roughly $525,000 to buy out the remaining 21 years on a lease held by First Merit Bank, which foreclosed on the course in 2009.

Bittersweet opened as a public-private venture in June 1996. Leftover profits were supposed to be shared with Gurnee, but officials said that never occurred.

While Gurnee has owned the 240 acres the course sits on, a private company was supposed to control the actual operation, including the clubhouse and pro shop.

That site must remain for open space and recreation uses under a developer agreement that resulted in the village receiving the land for free in the 1990s.

Led by real-estate turnaround expert Samuel M. Ekstein, Starbird started running Bittersweet in 2010 after it landed in another recent foreclosure lawsuit. Kovarik said the company has performed well under difficult circumstances.

"We've had nothing but positive feedback all season," she said.

Kovarik said she had wanted the village board to discuss during the summer what should be done with Bittersweet, but a crush of business negated the idea. She said she plans to hold such discussions next year.

Gurnee has set aside $100,000 if financial assistance for the golf course becomes necessary.

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