Newspaper article Evansville Courier & Press (2007-Current)

Frequent Golfer Takes on Burdette ; County OKs Lease of Course

Newspaper article Evansville Courier & Press (2007-Current)

Frequent Golfer Takes on Burdette ; County OKs Lease of Course

Article excerpt

The miniature golf course at Burdette Park is struggling to stay alive. The park has faced several challenges in recent years - including costly water bills and rising prices, and the golf course has perhaps been hit the hardest of all.

But a local business owner and the park's director have an idea about how to save Burdette's miniature golf course, and it all started over a round of golf.

At Tuesday's county commissioners meeting, the board approved a management agreement that allows Gary Schnell, a local restaurant owner, to operate all aspects of the miniature golf course. The agreement goes into effect Tuesday and will last six months.

President Joe Kiefer seemed pleased with the arrangement.

"The county has actually lost money from the golf course the past few years," he said. "This is a great opportunity to move it to the private sector and see how they can improve it."

Schnell is taking on a challenge. The golf course has been struggling to make a profit for years.

Steve Craig, the park's director, said that when the recession hit in 2008, there was a sharp decline in the number of company picnics held at the park. The miniature golf course relied heavily on these picnics for its revenue and it has never really recovered.

"The companies had to cut spending, so they cut the picnics," Craig said. "And they've never really come back."

The park was dealt other critical blows this year. In response to a hike in water and sewer rates, Burdette Park raised some of its admission prices this January.

Craig said other factors have influenced the golf course's bottom line, including an increase in the minimum wage in 2009 and the intense summer heat of 2012.

To get the golf course back to its former revenue, Craig knew something had to change. A few possible solutions came from Schnell, one of the course's most frequent patrons.

Schnell has been going to the park to play miniature golf for a while and he sees the course as more than just a new business venture. …

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