Community effort underway to save La Porte City Golf Club

Course to go up for sale Sept. 10

La Porte City residents Matt Craft (left) and Corey Lorenzen (right) address a large crowd of concerned community members during a Labor Day evening town hall addressing the possible Sept. 10 closure of the local golf course, LPC Golf Club. PHOTO BY SOREN M. PETERSON

When word began to spread in late August that the semi-private, 9-hole La Porte City Golf Club would be shuttering effective Sept. 10 and put up for sale without community intervention, a group of La Porte City residents including attorneys Matt Craft and Corey Lorenzen quickly got to work to save their course.

As time was of the essence, a community town hall to address how to save the golf club was hastily scheduled for Labor Day evening. The meeting – which was standing room only – was helmed by Craft and Lorenzen with assistance from Jan Pint in the LPC Community Center this past Monday.

“The owner [Corey Schatz] wants an offer from somebody by [September 10] and, if not, then he’s going to close down for the season, and will be looking to accept offers that would not only include a golf course use but whatever other use – acreage, farming, whatever,” Craft explained to the large crowd as he began the 7:00 p.m. meeting, Lorenzen listening nearby.

According to Craft, Schatz is asking $400,000 for the turnkey business which includes a recently renovated clubhouse and “above average” equipment.

The first half of Monday night’s meeting was spent laying out what Craft and Lorenzen see as three viable options to save the course – a course that is used by Union Community School District’s high school golf and cross country teams.

Union is set to host their home meet this Thursday, Sept. 8, on the LPC course as well as the North Iowa Cedar League Conference meet later this fall on October 13.

The first option, Craft explained, would be for another private individual like current owner Schatz or the late Wally Markham before him – who incidentally bought the financially-strapped course in 2012 after winning the lottery – to purchase the course and continue with business as usual, running it for profit.

The second option – which Craft indicated is how at least 75 percent of small-town, nine-hole golf courses are run in Iowa – would be for members of the community to form a non-profit corporation to purchase the course. The course would then be governed by a volunteer board of directors.

The third option would entail a private owner or group of owners purchasing the business and then leasing it to a third party to manage.

Both Craft and Lorenzen along with Pint have been diligently working since last week on the second option – collecting pledges toward the hopeful purchase of the course by a non-profit community group.

Union sophomore Lauren Youngblut runs the La Porte City Golf Club course on Thursday, Sept. 9, 2021, during last year's Union Invitational. NORTH TAMA TELEGRAPH FILE PHOTO

Before opening the floor to audience questions, Craft explained it was their hope people would continue to step up that evening and in the next 48 hours by making pledges toward the $400k purchase price as well as a “nest egg” for immediate operating needs.

Craft made clear a pledge does not equate to free membership with the course if the community’s efforts to purchase LPC Golf Club and run it as a non-profit are ultimately successful.

“If you make a pledge, it is essentially a donation. You will not own any equity in the golf course,” Craft said. “This is a non-profit … You are essentially making a donation to that non-profit that’s going to use your donations to purchase the golf course.”

Craft said they would need pledges to be fulfilled in 30 days. Those who make a pledge are not liable to complete the donation if the sale does not come to fruition.

The long and short of it, Craft said, comes down to money.

“We need to have an idea by about Wednesday where we’re at [with pledges],” Craft continued. “We’ve got the model – we know the legal side of this, we know the process side of this, I think we can get there – but it depends on the money. If we don’t have the pledges, I can’t in good faith sign the contract.”

During the course of the Q&A that followed several questions pertained to offering the owner less than the asking price – specifically in reference to work that needs to be done in the near future on the irrigation system – but Craft and Lorenzen held firm in their belief that working toward the $400k price tag plus a cushion was the best path forward, especially in light of the looming Saturday deadline.

“I hate to see another thing leave La Porte,” a woman in the back of the room could be heard lamenting at one point. “We got nothing.”

One such loss includes the local newspaper. In the aftermath of the pandemic, La Porte City – with a population hovering just under 2,300 – lost The Progress Review, a family-owned newspaper that had been in publication for 127 years.

Craft also addressed the city possibly purchasing the course, or the local school district or even Hawkeye Community College stepping up to purchase. None are feasible paths, Craft explained. The city cannot purchase it as it is not within city limits.

Lorenzen, president of the Union school board, responded in regards to the school’s involvement, sharing that such a venture was beyond the district’s current means.

Both men declined repeated questions regarding how much money had been pledged thus far, but shared that they were not in the homestretch by any means but were confident the task was surmountable in the timeframe given.

“You win a baseball game with a little bit of singles, a little bit of doubles, and a home run,” Craft said before later ending the meeting with a plea for those who have not yet pledged any amount to contact him as soon as possible.

“You know where to find us. Your money’s worth more if you call us than if we call you.”

To make a pledge toward the purchase of the La Porte City Golf Club, individuals are asked to contact one of the three organizers: attorney Matt Craft (319) 230-8637; attorney Corey Lorenzen (319) 269-7152; or Jan Pint (319) 361-4737.