Kane'ohe golf course sold to new owners
By Andrew Gomes
Advertiser Staff Writer
By Andrew Gomes
A local investment partnership has bought Bay View Golf Park in Kane'ohe and plans to gradually rehabilitate the Windward landmark that had fallen on tough times.
The $11 million purchase by KBay LLC, a partnership led by businessman Greg Hong, is intended to end nearly a decade of decline for the 18-hole course popular with kama'aina golfers for its inexpensive greens fees, nighttime driving range and miniature golf.
KBay becomes the third owner of the 120-acre property since a Japan-based company in the mid-1990s expanded the course to 18 holes and installed new amenities but failed to maintain the facilities because of financial difficulties.
Hong said KBay will continue to focus on kama'aina business, with an added emphasis on youth players interested in the sport.
"Michelle Wie really elevated the sport," he said. "Hawai'i has many talented youth, and we at Bay View want to serve the community and provide opportunities to cultivate that talent."
Hong said there is no plan or opportunity to add homes on the property, but that the public should expect a gradual sprucing up to Bay View's mostly par-3 course, its double-decker driving range and 36 holes of miniature golf.
"It's more of an ongoing little-here-little-there, instead of shutting everything down and doing it one time," he said.
The new owners specifically plan to improve the driving range with new tee-box mats and grass in the field, to repair damaged mini-golf structures and to begin better upkeep of the course where sand traps are overgrown with grass and weeds.
Hong also said that KBay is in discussions with a golf academy to offer training programs at Bay View. But there are no plans to resume nighttime play on the fully lighted 18 holes or repair an automated ball delivery system in the driving range.
The range ball system is too costly to repair, and running the course lighting is too expensive relative to demand for night play, Hong said.
Both features were part of improvements made by Pacific Atlas (Hawaii) Inc., the Japan-based company that bought Bay View in 1988 and other property later for about $23 million.
Built in 1963 as a nine-hole short course designed by one of Hawai'i's golf legends, Jimmy Ukauka, Bay View was envisioned by Pacific Atlas as ideal for conversion to a championship course for international membership.
But the plan was opposed by the City Council and community members concerned about possible pesticide and herbicide runoff into Kane'ohe Bay and the preservation of the Waikalua-Loko Fishpond.
The city agreed to a compromise, allowing expansion of Bay View into a short 18-hole course with expanded facilities like the miniature golf and automated driving range that opened in 1997.
The changes, however, didn't pay off for Pacific Atlas, which failed to earn enough revenue from Bay View to cover debt service, taxes and maintenance. As a result, parts of the property fell into disrepair.
At one point, the city considered buying or foreclosing on the course because of unpaid property taxes. The back nine holes were closed because rent wasn't paid on part of a fairway and cart path not owned by Pacific Atlas.
In 2003, local investors The Shidler Group, J.D. Watumull and Joe Leoni bought the distressed asset from Pacific Atlas affiliate BVGP Inc. for $3.4 million.
The partnership paid off $1 million in delinquent property taxes and cured the lease default to resume play on all 18 holes. But no major renovations were made.
POPULAR WITH KAMA'AINA
With minor repairs and cheap greens fees that today cost kama'aina $16 on weekdays and $20 on weekends, Bay View has remained fairly popular.
"I don't think any of us intended to be in the golf business," said Larry Taff, managing partner of the Shidler Group. "It was just an opportunistic buy."
Wil Dunn, a retiree from Kane'ohe who plays golf about twice a week but only six or so times a year at Bay View, said it's unfortunate that the improvements made in the mid-1990s couldn't be maintained.
"They haven't maintained the course as it should be," he said. "If it was maintained better ... I would play here more."
Kealoha Sherwood, a 20-year-old nearby resident who just recently took up golf, said he doesn't mind Bay View's conditions. "It's not bad for $20," he said.
Hong said Bay View sells roughly 30,000 rounds of golf a year and only needs to maintain about that many rounds of business plus business from the range and miniature golf to make the course a good investment.
Reach Andrew Gomes at email@example.com.