A local business owner reached out to the community this week for its help in keeping the only golf course in Koochiching County open.
Jordan Pearson, owner of The River Golf Course, addressed more than 100 community members - golfers and non-golfers - Wednesday night during a meeting about the future of the course. The business is currently operating at a $96,000 deficit, and Pearson said while he has options, he is running out of time.
“If we are going to keep the course open, I need your help,” he said.
Wednesday's meeting stemmed from a surge of rumors surrounding the course and whether it would be open after the 2019 golf season. Pearson said he's heard several scenarios involving a sale of the course, and wanted to bring those concerned together to offer transparency about an asset many in the community feel is important.
“At first I thought this is a private business, I can do what I want,” Pearson said. “But the more I thought about it, I realized this is the community's golf course... We're all in this together.”
Pearson purchased The River, formerly Falls County Club in the fall of 2016. Prior to its private ownership, the course was operated by a non-profit board.
At the time of the purchase, Pearson also owned Island View Realty and said he understood the importance a community golf course can bring to local property values. His intention at the time of the sale was to operate the 160-acre property as an 18-hole golf course, bar and grill, and event center.
Many updates have come to The River in the past three years, including fixing the irrigation system, adding necessary equipment to maintain the course, and the addition of a 2,800 square foot pavilion to offer a place for a variety of events.
“Thousands of dollars have been invested here,” Pearson said, noting many of the updates can't even be seen.
In 2017, Pearson sold Island View Realty and moved to California. He returned the following summer and admitted he felt a loss of enthusiasm for the community.
“I lost hope for a little while,” he said. “That loss of enthusiasm triggered my real estate senses... I told myself to sell the golf course.”
During the winter, Pearson started seeking buyers and had many conversations about a potential sale.
“I told potential buyers that the first person to come up with a check would get the property,” he said. “I cannot control what the next owner does with the real estate, I told them I just want out.”
Then, the rumors flew.
“Those rumors have hurt the business and made me want to sell even more,” Pearson said.
However, things changed. When Pearson thought about selling the course, he said he began to realize how much he enjoyed the property and the sentimental value it brought to himself and many others.
“I don't want to be the guy who sells this course and walks away,” he said. “Don't make me be that person.”
When thinking about the future, Pearson developed three options:
- He could sell the golf course to the first person or company that writes a check.
- He can close after the fall of 2019 and keep the property.
- He can continue to operate the property as an 18-hole golf course, bar and grill and event center.
“The time for action and decision making is now,” he said. “If I sell, the new owner could do whatever they want with the property. That may mean the end of golf in International Falls.”
Between 2017 and 2018, sales at the course decreased by $150,000, making option No. 3 the most challenging, but doable and desirable.
“It is possible, and I am willing, but I cannot do this alone,” Pearson said. “For me to commit to operating a golf course, I need commitment from you.”
The crowd responded with enthusiasm and ideas.
Forms for people to volunteer to do maintenance work, and brainstorm other fundraising options, were distributed and filled out. Others attending the announcement vowed to offer financial support.
“We'll be the first to purchase our season membership right now,” said Mary Ann Kasich.
Others completed an order form to purchase a sweatshirt that will indicate support for The River. The $200 sweatshirt represents commitment to save the course by those who wear it.
“It may seem like a lot for a sweatshirt, but it's about the big picture,” Pearson said. “The sweatshirt is a symbol of your support. The big picture is that by buying a sweatshirt, you are literally saving the golf course for many years to come... Many people showed concern about the thought of losing the golf course, and now is the time for those interested in keeping the course to step up and help out. Be part of the solution, not the problem.”