Legislative Auditor’s Office reports Idlewild golf course owes parish $1.3M

MORGAN CITY, La. -- The Atchafalaya at Idlewild golf course near Patterson owes the St. Mary Parish Council more than $1.3 million, three times the amount of its assets on hand, according to the commission’s recent audit report for the fiscal year ended Sept. 30.

The course is operated by the parish’s Atchafalaya Golf Course Commission.

The audit, conducted by Pitts and Matte accounting and made public today by the state Legislative Auditor’s Office, stated the total assets as of Sept. 30 were $445,687, while total liabilities were $1.77 million.

The commission was created in 2003 by the council to maintain and operate the 18-hole Atchafalaya at Idlewild Course in Patterson.

The golf course took in $994,914 in total operating revenues, while posting total operating expenses of $1.33 million, for a net loss of $335,224.

The St. Mary Parish Council gave a grant of $250,000 to the golf course as well as an advance of $163,826. The golf course also received a grant from BP for $44,044 in the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30.

Paul Naquin, parish president said, “Every year we’re running about $225,000 to $250,000 debt. It’s a definite concern. We talk about it every year, and we know about it. In the past, what we did was lease out the food and beverage area.”

Leasing the food and beverage area cut the deficit in half, he added.

The course, its clubhouse and certain maintenance equipment are owned by the St. Mary Parish Council, and debts accumulated from constructing the course and the acquisition of “certain equipment” are funded by the council, the report said.

“The council established the commission to maintain and operate the course on the council’s and public’s behalf. The course is economically dependent upon the council,” according to the report.

Employees of the 7,533-yard course are employed by the parish council, according to the report.

As of Sept. 30, 2012, the commission owed the council $1,382,649 for employee salaries and benefit reimbursement. Initially, the commission agreed to reimburse the council for the salaries of employees and other staff costs, but as of Sept. 30 has not done that.

Naquin said the golf course is beginning to attract more tournaments, which will help it financially.

“You can’t just look there,” Naquin said, “You’ve got to look at what it’s bringing into St. Mary Parish. Golfers are coming in and spending money.”

The boat landings and nearby Kemper Williams Park both run at a deficit, he said.

“We’re definitely concerned about anything running in a deficit like (the golf course). At the end of the day, we’re doing well with this course, really,” Naquin said.

Carrie Stansbury, executive director of the Cajun Coast Visitors and Convention Bureau, said in sports marketing, it is generally accepted that every person adds $100 to $150 into the economy for each night he or she stays in the area.

In the past year, tournament players on the course spent 288 nights in the parish and there were 1,564 day trips to St. Mary by tournament golfers equating to $208,000 into the local economy, according to a report given to the parish council by golf commission chairman Rudy Sparks in September.

“With respect to green fee play, we estimate that at about 600 overnight stays (had) a total estimated economic impact of about $550,000,” Sparks said.

There also were some 18 tournaments that generated $180,000 for local charities, he added.

Also, he said, the course provides nine full-time jobs, and 40 part-time, temporary and contract jobs for a total $1 million payroll.

“Please keep in mind … that we’re creating jobs both full-time and part-time and bringing people in from outside of St. Mary Parish that are leaving dollars here in our community,” he said.

The golf course, Stansbury said, also adds “a quality of life issue” because of the adult recreation aspect that is needed in a tourism package. Stansbury also noted that because the golf course is part of the Audubon Golf Trail, the area receives “a whole level of publicity we wouldn’t necessarily get.”

The report said that the council has agreed to defer repayment of the total until December of this year, “at which time the council may again defer repayment.”

The report said that the council has agreed to continue financing a portion of the employees’ salaries and benefits “as necessary to ensure continuing the course’s ongoing operations” because of the “great recreational and economic benefits provided by the course.”

The course, which opened in 2005, has never run at a profit, Naquin said.

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