If you have never been to the Jersey Meadow Golf Course clubhouse, you’re really not missing much in terms of the quality of the facility. It’s apparent from the moment you walk inside that it is extraordinarily dated. The furniture resembles what you would find in the common areas of college dormitories in the 1990’s. The layout is awkward and inefficient. In sum, it takes little more than a cursory view of the building to understand why it is in such need of a makeover.
That said, if you stick around long enough, you quickly learn that there’s a lot to be said for the facility above and beyond the aesthetics of the building itself. The view from the glass walls of the clubhouse can be stunning, particularly late in the day as the sun goes down. The food served and the selection of beers is quite excellent, especially in light of the limitations of the facility. Every single staff member working in and around the clubhouse is extraordinarily friendly and more than willing to go the extra mile to serve their patrons.
With an investment in the facility, there’s clearly an opportunity to unlock the true potential of this community resource.
Jersey Village Comprehensive Plan
You will find that I often refer back to the Jersey Village Comprehensive Plan, and there’s good reason for that. It is the “honey do” list for city council written by our citizens.
When a committee of citizens developed the Jersey Village Comprehensive Plan, they identified the Jersey Meadow Golf Course clubhouse as a facility in great need of renovation. The input received by the committee from citizens strongly backed continuing to maintain the green space where the golf course sits, and until a better solution to economically maintain 126 acres of green space comes along, we should work to improve the golf course and make it self-sustainable.
Clubhouse Assessment Report
In order to gain a better understanding of the extent and costs of renovating, the Jersey Village City Council authorized the city manager to enter into a contract with Ray and Hollington Architects to assess the current state of the clubhouse and determine what changes needed to be made to bring it up to date and to expand its use from a golf course clubhouse to a multi-purpose resource for the entire community.
If you are interested in reading the entire report, you can do so by clicking here. For everyone else, I’ll hit some of the highlights (or “lowlights”, if you will) from the report.
- The original construction, completed by Cameron Iron Works when it was owned by them for use as an employee-only golf course, was not of high quality.
- While the foundation, superstructure, and electrical system appear to be in satisfactory condition, nearly all other elements of the building are in need of work.
- While the size of the clubhouse is adequate for its current use, the layout is poor.
- The current structure is grandfathered against subsequent code changes, but major renovations would trigger the need to bring all mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems up to current code.
- The estimated cost of all renovations needed for the clubhouse total $985,500.
It’s not pretty. Our city staff believes that the estimated cost of renovations are overstated a bit, partially due to the fact that the report estimates the cost of replacing the roof at $60,000, while the city was able to successfully contract the work out at $40,000 (although that work is on hold while we determine how to proceed).
At this price range, however, there’s a real need to have a conversation about whether to move forward with renovations or rebuild the entire facility. During the city council meeting held in February 2018, the consensus of council was to hold a work session to discuss plans to rebuild the clubhouse. That work session is going to take place on Thursday, March 8th at 6:00pm at the Jersey Meadow Golf Course clubhouse. It will be open to the public and I encourage you to attend. In the meantime, let’s cover some of the biggest issues that need to be addressed.
How Will We Pay for It?
This is always the most important question when dealing with any government project. This question is made even more pertinent due to the financial challenges faced by the golf course over the last couple of years.
The good news is that a substantial portion of the cost of any renovation or rebuild should be covered by Hotel Occupancy Tax dollars. These funds are collected through a 7% tax on the price paid to rent a hotel room in Jersey Village. These funds, however, cannot be used on just any project or service. State law requires that the funds be used “only to promote tourism and the convention and hotel industry” with several categories of purposes which fall under this scope. These are not funds that could be used to pay for flooding, police, fire or any other general government purpose. Tournaments held at the golf course bring people in from all over the area, which means that it contributes more to tourism than anything else in our city.
What if I’m Not a Golfer?
The golf course clubhouse is for more than golfers. I’ve only played one round of golf at Jersey Meadow, and yet I’ve been to the golf course clubhouse dozens of times. If you haven’t been there before, you might not realize that Backyard Grill operates the snack bar in the clubhouse. They have an excellent food menu. They also happen to have an excellent selection of craft beers.
The space has also seen an increasing use for general community purposes. The Jersey Village Senior Outreach has started meeting at the clubhouse for breakfast and coffee. Several city sponsored events such as Astros playoff watch parties or a children’s Valentine’s Day cookie decorating event have been held there. These events have drawn anywhere from 40-100 people. All of this interest exists despite the poor condition of the facilities. Imagine if we could build on that interest by providing a high quality meeting space for use by our community. How many more groups would be interested in using the space for the benefit of the community.
More importantly, a high quality golf course clubhouse also makes for an attractive space for wedding receptions, business meetings, birthday parties, family reunions and many other social gatherings. These are all events which could bring a significant amount of non-golf revenue to the facility.
But Isn’t This a Golf Course Clubhouse?
A high quality golf course clubhouse is extremely important for golf related revenue as well. One of the major obstacles to Jersey Meadow drawing more interest by groups seeking to hold golf tournaments is the low quality of our golf course clubhouse. If we invest in a new clubhouse, we can draw more golf course tournaments, which generate substantial revenues for the golf course and help it become self-sufficient. It also increases the chances that people who do come to play golf at Jersey Meadow will stick around to have lunch, have a beer or two, and maybe buy some merchandise from the pro shop.
Thinking Outside the Box: Combining City Hall with the Clubhouse
When considering a project of this magnitude, we do our city a disservice if we merely think about the current uses of the golf course clubhouse.
If you have followed city government for more than just a year or two, you know that a major capital expenditure that has been put off for a very long time is the construction of a new city hall. As it stands, our city hall includes a civic center that is significantly underutilized during the day. What if, in the process of building a new golf course clubhouse we could consolidate public spaces to ensure the greatest possible utilization?
I think there is significant merit to consolidating the golf course clubhouse with city hall in order to provide the greatest efficiency in building a new facility for both functions. The current location of city hall would make an ideal location for our new public works building which has been in need of replacement for a number of years now. Obviously, this new facility would need to be constructed in such a way to blend into the surrounding residential area. By moving public works into the residential section of Jersey Village, however, we can substantially decrease the inefficiency of travel of staff back and forth from our current facility (which is located outside of city limits) and provide for improved customer service for our residents. This also allows us to move public works from land that regularly floods, thereby avoiding future losses. That land, however, is still quite valuable and could be sold to offset the costs of the construction for which the city has planned for many years.
While all of this is a significant investment, it is one for which the city has saved up for a number of years. Anticipating the need for a new city hall, the city council passed Resolution 2007-46, which created a “Facilities Reserve Balance” to renovate or replace city owned facilities as needed. Since October 2007, budget surpluses above and beyond the 150-day operating reserve (some might call this a “rainy day fund”) have been allocated to the Facilities Reserve Balance. Rather than take out debt to renovate or replace aging facilities, our city council made the wise decision to save over time for these expenses. These funds sit ready to be utilized, without the need for any tax increases, new debt, or decreases in funding to existing city services. In fact, a new city hall would provide for more efficient and effective services from our city government.
These investments in new facilities have been delayed year after year to the point where they affect the ability of our city staff to effectively deliver services to residents. Moreover, the dilapidated condition of our city hall does not positively contribute to our efforts to attract new residents and businesses to our city.
With a bold plan to invest in necessary facilities, we can substantially improve the face of our city to new residents and businesses seeking to move into Northwest Harris County while also providing higher quality services for all of our residents.
But What If We Decide to Use the Golf Course For Some Other Purpose?
The most cynical critic of the golf course may point to my suggestion of combining the golf course clubhouse and city hall and claim that I am merely trying to dig our heels into the long-term use of that land as a golf course. While I have been an outspoken supporter of the golf course, I have also made it known that if the day came where the land could be maintained as beneficial green space at a lower financial cost to the city, I would be open to such a suggestion.
But despite the easy criticism that this further commits the city to continued operation of the golf course, constructing a dual use building for both city hall and the golf course clubhouse actually provides greater flexibility in the event the land is used for some other purpose.
If the city ever chose to move forward with repurposing the golf course land, a city hall combined with the golf course clubhouse allows the city to make better use of the vacated clubhouse for general meeting space, just as the civic center is used today. It could also be used to expand city hall if necessary. That flexibility simply would not exist if we were to keep the two facilities separated as they are today.
Where Do We Go From Here?
During the city council special meeting on March 8th, your elected representatives will work to develop a plan for how to bid out a contract to rebuild the clubhouse at Jersey Meadow. We will need to have the project designed and engineered, particularly in light of the pending golf course berm project designed to help mitigate flooding. We need to determine how big the clubhouse should be, how much space to dedicate to its various functions, and how to design it to provide the maximum amount of flexibility to host a variety of events.
In the meantime, I encourage each of you to contact your council members to let them know what you like or don’t like about the golf course clubhouse. Is there something you would like to see integrated into a new design? Something in the current design you don’t like? Your input is quite valuable to ensuring we build a clubhouse that can serve the entire community.