Phalen Golf Course may have found new management

The city-owned Phalen Golf Course is shown in late fall of 2013. The course, along with Como Golf Course, will likely be under private management this coming spring. (Linda Baumeister/Review)

Come spring, Prom Management Group may be running the East Side’s majestic Phalen Golf Course, along with the Como Golf Course.

Phalen Golf Course, an 18-hole recreational course located in Phalen Regional Park, has been an East Side destination since it was built in 1917.

The decision to find a private partner came in November 2013, after the St. Paul Parks and Rec Department reported that collectively, the city’s four golf courses had lost $5 million since 2008.

So, after some discussion, the St. Paul City Council approved a resolution for the parks department to search for someone to take over running the Phalen and Como courses.

Spokesperson Brad Meyer said the parks department landed seven proposals, although one was disqualified because it missed the deadline.

A committee ranked the proposals, whittling them down to three. Those three were interviewed, and Prom Management was ultimately chosen.

“We got to an agreement with Prom that we felt the most comfortable with,” Meyer said.

The company and the city have hashed out a rough draft of a contract, which was approved unanimously by the St. Paul Parks and Recreation commission on Wednesday, Jan. 15, and will now go to city council approval.

Meyer said the city council could vote on it as early as next week.

If that goes through, the city would hopefully be getting the private management into the Phalen facility in time for the start of the 2014 golf season, he said.

Company background

If the deal goes through, Prom Management would be responsible for grounds maintenance in addition to running the Phalen clubhouse.

Prom Management is owned by brothers Tom and Bill Given and is based in Oakdale, where it has the Prom Center, an event hosting facility. Prom Management runs the well-known catering division called Prom Catering.

The company specializes in concessions sales and event catering, and operates concessions and banquet hosting out of several other facilities, including two publicly owned golf clubhouses in Minneapolis, and 3M’s Tartan Park, which has an adjoining golf course in Lake Elmo.

The added responsibility of managing the grounds of a municipal golf course would be a new step for them, Meyer said, but they’re prepared.

Meyer said Don Siggelkow, a veteran of the Minneapolis Parks system, will be the superintendent for the courses. Siggelkow oversaw operations at Minneapolis’ seven golf courses, on top of a variety of other city venues, and worked for the Minneapolis Parks and Recreation Board as a superintendent for over a decade. 

“He’s got the pedigree to be successful,” Meyer said.

Residents’ concerns

At the parks commission meeting, around 50 residents showed up to voice concerns about the efforts to privatize the Como and Phalen courses, Meyer said. About 15 people said they were worried about the future of Phalen Golf Course, he said.

Meyer said that by and large, they expressed apprehensions about Prom Management’s ability to maintain the course at the same level as the city crews. They were also concerned about losing the course’s golf pro, Jody Christensen.

“People like Jody,” Meyer said, “she’s a great pro.”

Meyer said that the parks and recreation department has offered her other positions there, but have also encouraged that Prom Management consider hiring on city staff.

Bill Given, co-owner of Prom Management Group, said the company’s been talking with grounds maintenance workers from other courses in the Twin Cities, and should have an experienced grounds crew lined up, if the contract goes through.

Performance improvement

Given said that the main ways the company would improve the performance of the courses would be through added revenue stream from the company’s bread and butter -- concessions sales.

They’ll seek out a full liquor license, he said, which would in turn make it easier to bring in additional golf tournaments.

Events- and concessions-wise, the facilities at Phalen Golf Course have been underutilized, he said, noting that under city mangement, the only food available at the concessions stand was frozen pizza or hot dogs, and the only beverages available were 3.2 beer and glasses of wine.

He asserted that only three wedding receptions were held at the facility last year. “Three weddings, are you kidding me?” he said, “There’s no reason not to do 20 or 25.”

And Prom will be cutting out some fat, he said. “The (city) payroll is astronomical,” he said. “No private operation can operate that way... there are definitely going to be some efficiencies we’re going to do.”

Contract could generate revenue for city

The group would be on a five-year contract with the city, which would end with the closing of the 2018 golf season, Meyer said.

Under the arrangement, Prom Management would do revenue sharing with the city parks department -- it would pay the parks department 4 percent of its annual income, or a minimum of $65,000 for use of both Phalen and Como courses.

“If they lose money, they’re responsible,” Meyer said. And the more they make, the more the city stands to gain, he noted.

And either way, the city’s off the hook for the roughly $400,000 it has lost annually between the two courses.

The city wouldn’t be entirely off the hook money-wise on the facilities though. It will throw in $30,000 a year per course towards capital improvements and any pressing maintenance. Prom Management, in turn, will throw in $10,000 per year per course for the first three years, and $20,000 for the last two.

Customer experience

In terms of what the customers might see under Prom’s management, Meyer said the changes would be mostly positive or unnoticeable.

Golfers will use the same website as before, and there will still be merchandise in the clubhouse, and the public will be able to book tee times. The differences will potentially be improved food and beverage choices, Meyer said, along with new staffing.

And the winter activities will remain, he noted. Cross country ski trails at Phalen will still be maintained by the city, as will the skiing activities at Como.

Contact Patrick Larkin at 651-748-7816 or at, or follow on Twitter at @ESRPatrickLark.

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