SOUTH ST. COUNTY LOUIS — The private management company that operates Quail Creek Golf Course, a county-owned course here, said it plans to cease operations by the end of the month.
But St. Louis County officials say the company, Quail Creek Golf Management, is violating the terms of a lease agreement that lasts until September 30, 2029.
The possible shutdown of operations could upend the approaching golf season for high schools in southern St. Louis County who use the course near Tesson Ferry Road and Interstate 270 for practice and games. The 262-acre, 18-hole course, at 6022 Wells Road, is adjacent to Suson Park; the golf club is part of the Kennedy Recreation Complex.
Quail Creek Golf Management owner Steven Bander confirmed in a statement Friday that the company was ending operations at the golf course.
The statement read in full, “Having advised the county months ago that Quail Creek Golf Management LLC would continue to operate the golf course until its funding is exhausted, I can confirm that the course will cease operations for ‘here February 28, 2022. Quail Creek Golf Management LLC has fulfilled its obligations under its lease with the county and has not breached the lease. Beyond this statement, Quail Creek Golf Management LLC will have no further comment.
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In an interview, parks manager Tom Ott disputed the claim but declined to discuss specifics of what he said was now a “legal matter”.
Emails obtained by the Post-Dispatch allude to a dispute between Bander and the county over responsibility for improvements to the course, which the county has leased to a private operator since the course opened in 1985. The lease was updated once, in 1999, with an amendment stating that the term of the lease would last until 2029, according to a copy released in response to a request for documents. The lease also appeared to impose responsibility for the costs of any “required or necessary repairs” on the lessee at the time, Eagle Golf Enterprises Inc.
Bander’s company took over the lease in 2012. A year earlier, Bander, a physician, received a multimillion-dollar windfall for helping the U.S. Attorney’s Office win a $350 million fraud settlement against a healthcare company.
On January 31, Quail Creek officials sent an email to nine high school officials advising them that they would close operations “on or about” February 1 and the county would take over “on or about” on March 1.
The move follows “extensive discussions” with the county parks department about “the future direction of golf course operations,” the email said.
“It has been decided that Quail Creek Golf Management, LLC will transfer day-to-day operations and overall management to the owner of the course St. Louis County Parks Department. We ask that you direct any questions regarding future plans of operation to the St. Louis County Parks Department. At the time of this email, we do not know the point of contact for the parks department, but we will pass this information on as soon as it becomes available.
The email prompted at least one high school golf coach to immediately write to the park department and ask for help in finding other courses to practice on. The team’s practices were due to begin in late February; Quail Creek was the home course for the school’s varsity and junior teams.
In response, Ott sent a letter to Bander saying the county “does not consent” to the termination of the lease.
According to the letter, Quail Creek management wrote emails in late December and January to “state your intention to cease operating” the course and “terminate the existing lease.”
“St. Louis County Parks and Recreation Department (the “County”) does not consent to Quail Creek Golf Management ceasing operation of the golf course or terminating the lease,” Ott said. in the letter.
“The county appreciates that you consulted with a golf course architect for a golf course renovation plan. However, the county’s position is that Quail Creek Golf Management, LLC is responsible for operating the Quail Creek Golf Course through September 30, 2029, pursuant to Section A-4 of the Amended Lease.
Asked about the renovation plans, Ott said the tenant is responsible for the “operation and maintenance” of the course.
Ott said park officials “had conversations” with Bander about course conditions and renovations, including an improved irrigation system and repairs to the golf cart lanes. But they didn’t go “to the smallest detail,” Ott said.
“We would need to do an evaluation of the course and see what really needs to be done,” he said.
He declined to comment further on the dispute.
In November, Councilman Ernie Trakas included the golf course in a list of infrastructure projects and programs he wanted to complete with federal COVID-19 recovery funds. The plan included $7.5 million to fund bonds for repairs to the course, as well as $7.5 million to renovate the swimming pools at the Kennedy Recreation Complex.
Trakas said on Friday that he did not know more details about the course, but had had a few conversations with park officials about including possible repairs while looking at possible infrastructure improvements in the district. .
For now, the county is directing schools that used Quail Creek to two other county-owned courses: Crystal Springs Quarry at Creve Coeur Park and Eagle Springs at Veterans Memorial Park.
Quail Creek was one of two courses Bander has operated in recent years, according to earlier news reports. He also purchased a municipal golf course in Sunset Hills in 2013. He donated the 122-acre lot to the city in 2018.
Bander’s company was paying $10,833 a month in county rent for the Quail Creek golf course beginning in 2021, on a tiered pay schedule that is expected to increase every four years.
Bander originally tapped Sorkis Webbe Jr., a well-connected former St. Louis city councilman and fundraiser for former county executive Steve Stenger, to manage the day-to-day operations of the Quail Creek course. Webbe said on Friday he stopped managing the course in 2013.
A philanthropist, Bander has donated to the medical schools of St. Louis University and Washington University in St. Louis, including $3 million to establish the Bander Center for Medical Business Ethics at St. Louis University. .