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updated: 11/5/2012 9:14 PM

Gurnee OKs management deal for Bittersweet Golf Club

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  • Kristina Kovarik

    Kristina Kovarik


Gurnee has struck a deal with a new outside management company to operate Bittersweet Golf Club on the village's west side.

Village trustees Monday night voted 4-0, with one abstention, in favor of a five-year contract with Golf Visions Management Inc. Gurnee will pay $33,000 to GolfVisions in each of the first two years, then $36,000 annually for the last three years.

Northlake-based GolfVisions will have a chance to receive an incentive fee of 10 percent of gross revenue if it exceeds $900,000 in the first two years. That'll bump up to 15 percent if the gross revenue eclipses $1 million annually for the last three years of the contract.

Gurnee will pay the incentive fee only if there's a profit, according to GolfVisions' deal with the village.

Village taxpayers own the 240 acres that Bittersweet sits on near Almond Road and Grand Avenue. Officials say the property 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.

Mayor Kristina Kovarik said she believes GolfVisions can take the 18-hole Bittersweet to a higher level of business. She said new visitors will be impressed with the land.

"It's a beautiful piece of property," Kovarik said. "It's stunning in its beauty."

Chicago-based Starbird Links Golf Management, which was an unsuccessful bidder for the new contract awarded Monday, received $65,000 to run Bittersweet this year. The deal expires Dec. 31.

More than $525,000 in public money went toward village government taking over Bittersweet, which fell into foreclosure in 2009. Chicago-based Starbird, led by real-estate turnaround expert Samuel M. Ekstein, has been running Bittersweet since it landed in another foreclosure lawsuit in 2011.

Kovarik credited Starbird for keeping Bittersweet in business.

GolfVisions President/CEO Timothy Miles said he already has ideas on how to pump up Bittersweet's bottom line. He said the company intends to "soften" the layout and increase league play and junior programs.

"We're going to save the village when it comes to operating expenses," Miles said.

Gurnee formally took possession of the long-struggling links April 15, 2011. The village board voted to buy out the remaining 21 years on a lease held by First Merit Bank.

Bittersweet opened as a public-private venture in June 1996. It was supposed to share leftover profits with Gurnee, but officials said that never occurred.

While Gurnee has owned the land the course sits on for 16 years, a private company was supposed to control the actual operation that includes a clubhouse and pro shop.

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