Bid accepted for Superior National at Lutsen improvements

At the August 13, 2013 meeting of the Cook County - Grand Marais Economic Development Authority (EDA), the EDA board was disappointed to hear from golf course consultant Jeff Brauer of Golfscapes, Inc. that the bids received for renovations at Superior National at Lutsen golf course had come in too high, with a $727,133.42 difference between the lowest bidder and the proposed budget of $3,897,982.50. However, Brauer reassured the EDA that “value engineering” could put the project back in line with the EDA’s project budget and could allow work to still begin this fall.

“So we’re not dead in the water?” asked EDA Chair Mark Sandbo. Brauer said no and asked for authorization to work with the low bidders and Superior National staff to see what changes could be made to get the project within budget.  The EDA asked him to proceed and a special meeting was held on August 21 to hear another proposal, closer, but still $262,032.92 higher than what the EDA had earmarked for the project.

Value engineering to bring down costs

Mid-America Golf and Landscape of Kansas City, Missouri, remained the company with the lowest bid after value engineering at $4,160,015.42. To reach that reduced bid, Brauer and Superior National staff agreed to eliminate the driving range, to reuse nearly all the existing cart paths and to eliminate some greens protective material as it was already being provided in the stormwater management plan.

Other “minor reductions” could be made, wrote Brauer in his bid summary, but it was noted that he and Golf Course Manager Bob Fenwick believed further reductions would take the course below “resort-level,” which the EDA is seeking per its business plan put together by Sirius Golf Advisors.

In his recommendation to accept the Mid-America Golf bid, Brauer wrote, “While this final bid remains about 4 percent above the proposed budget of $3,897,982.59 as presented in the final November 2012 revised business plan, our considered opinion is that $4,160,015.42 represents the true cost of the proposed and necessary work.”

Brauer said he considers Mid-America Golf to be an excellent company, based on four previous projects that he worked on with them, including the award-winning gold courses at Giants Ridge in Biwabik and The Wilderness at Fortune Bay. He said Mid-America Golf would work with Superior National to keep 18 holes open at all times to accommodate golfers during construction.

Brauer recommended that the EDA board approve the bid of Mid-American Golf and issue a notice immediately so they can begin final paperwork and mobilize to begin construction on schedule in mid-September.

The EDA board discussed the gap in financing. The proposed budget of $3,897,982.50 was to be funded by $3.1 million from the Cook County local option sales tax for recreation and infrastructure, bonding and a grant from the Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Board (IRRRB).

Other reductions were discussed, such as possible cost saving measures in the stormwater management plan. Brauer said that Mid-America Golf would work with LHB Engineers, who developed the Superior National stormwater plan to see if savings could be found in the plan. The price tag of the stormwater management plan was unexpectedly high, Brauer told the EDA at the August 13 meeting, coming in at $350,000 instead of $150,000 as had been estimated.

The EDA also discussed other possible sources of funding for the project, including other grant entities such as the IRRRB.

EDA Board Member Scott Harrison moved to accept the bid from Mid-America Golf of $4,160,015.42. The motion carried unanimously with EDA board members Mark Sandbo, Bob Spry, Don Davison, Heidi Doo-Kirk and Hal Greenwood voting aye. EDA Board member Abby Toftey was absent.

EDA excited about moving ahead

After the meeting, Superior National at Lutsen issued a news release announcing progress on the project. Golf architect Brauer said, “Golf courses spring from nature. Very few golf courses have the natural opportunity that Superior National has with the Poplar River—one of the prettiest rivers in the world—running right through the course. Every time I come out to the course I see golfers on the tee with their cameras. From the raging rapids and beautiful river running through two golf holes, to the views of Lake Superior and the mountain views, this course has it all from a topography standpoint. We’re going to focus on improving the golf features and golf architecture to make it one of the best courses to play in the world.”

About the EDA’s acceptance of the bid from Mid-America, Brauer said, “I have known and admired Mid-America’s work for many years. The projects they have built for me, including the new Bridges at Preston Crossing and Wilderness at Lake Jackson, Tex. have been first rate in every respect. These guys are the best at what they do and are also fun to work with. We can't wait to get started and believe the EDA is very fortunate to have them as the successful bidder.”

Phase one of the Superior National project calls for “River Nine” to be renovated and reopened on or about October 1, 2014. Completion of phase two, “Canyon Nine,” is scheduled for the end of 2015. The third nine holes at Superior National—“Mountain 9”—will be open during the entire renovation process, which Brauer said means a high quality 18-hole experience to be continually available.

 Superior National General Manager Fenwick echoed Brauer, “Jeff has put together a great plan, we have the right team to accomplish it, and our local economy will be the beneficiary.”

The next meeting of the Cook County – Grand Marais Economic Development Authority is Tuesday, Sept. 10 at 4 p.m. at Grand Marais City Hall.