Friday, November 17, 2006

Golfers may play, stay at Legends on the Niagara

Golfers may play, stay at Legends on the Niagara
Niagara Parks issues RFP for ideas to improve course

Robert Lapensee
Nov 13, 2006

NIAGARA FALLS -- Some type of accommodations could be in the works for Legends on the Niagara Golf Course as the Niagara Parks Commission looks for ways to round out the course as a world-class golf destination.

Niagara Parks issued a request for proposals to the private sector in early October with the hopes of getting ideas back on what it can do to improve Legends. The wording for the proposal request is unusually loose, said John Kernahan, general manager for Niagara Parks, because Niagara Parks is open to any ideas to ramp up the course already considered to be world-class.

"What is the next thing we need to do to attract more golfers to Niagara?" said Kernahan. "It's very much up to the proponents about what will be proposed."

The next likely step could very well be some sort of accommodation on site because other areas billed as golf destinations already offer "stay and play" golf resorts.

Legends Resorts in Myrtle Beach, positioned on the Grand Strand in South Carolina, offers golfers a place to stay in its golf villas surrounded by nine golf courses. Condos and town homes are also offered for sale around four nearby courses, Barefoot Resort and Golf.

A similar development is underway in Niagara, Grand Niagara Resorts. The $300-million development includes two golf courses, one already open, homes, condos and a hotel.

Kernahan said his hope, not that he is putting ideas in anyone's head, would include accommodations as well as some other high-end component which would add to the calibre of Legends on the Niagara, like an indoor, all-seasons practice facility.

"We recognized we need to offer more than just golf," he said.

Kernahan said the formula for making Niagara a golf destination is starting to work. When it opened in 2002, Legends recorded 11,000 rounds from people living outside the region. In 2006, Kernahan said outsider rounds have risen to almost 26,000.

Since Legends opened, other high-end courses have opened, including Grand Niagara and John Daly's signature course, Thundering Waters."They really just add to the inventory of wonderful golf courses," said Kernahan. "We want to keep the momentum going.

"This is new money coming in. This is good for tourism. This is good for jobs. And this is good for the community."

Regional Councillor Bill Smeaton said he is dead-set against the Parks Commission moving into the accommodations business, saying it's breaking a time-honoured commitment not to compete with private sector businesses.

"There's no way you can say it isn't competition," said Smeaton. "It is."

Smeaton said an understanding the Parks Commission would not compete against area accommodations and instead run its attractions, restaurants and gift shops has existed for years.

He said many accommodations in the area don't know what Niagara Parks is planning.

"I'm going to let them know in a hurry," said Smeaton. "It's a breach of what has been an understood trust."

But Kernahan said Niagara Parks is staying out of the accommodations business, opting instead to have a well-known, brand-name accommodator run the lodgings.

While he was only speculating what might be proposed, he said Niagara Parks will only accept a low-rise development on the property.

"It would have to be something that would fit in with a park setting," he said. "Glass and chrome just won't go."

The RFP closes this month.

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