Citing safety and liability concerns, the City of Omaha has taken over management of The Knolls, a city-owned golf course near 120th Street and West Maple Road.
The course remained open Friday as city workers replaced those employed by Knolls Management, the private firm that has run the facility since 2005.
Assistant city attorney Michelle Peters said the city is involved in “ongoing contractual disputes” with Dave Johnson, who operates Knolls Management, but declined to share specific details. She said nothing has been filed in court and there have been no safety claims related to the property.
“Because of our concern about the safety and conditions at the course, we thought it best for us to take it over at this point for the duration of the golf season,” she said.
The city initially signed a 20-year course management contract with a different company in 1998. Johnson, a former head golf pro at the Field Club who also briefly managed operations at the Ironwood Golf and Country Club, took over that contract in 2005. The city retained ownership of the land and Johnson paid a “concession fee,” which was either a percentage of green and golf cart fees and food and beverage sales or $125,000, whichever was more.
Brook Bench, the city’s interim parks director, said The Knolls, which was the only city course under outside management, was not up to par with other city-owned golf facilities. He said there have been concerns about the course for about a year.
This summer, the city ordered a review of the course, which included a report on the number of people using the facility.
Peters said that reporting was triggered in part by concerns about operations at the course, and contributed to the city takeover.
“It raised some questions,” she said.
Johnson’s attorney could not be reached for comment.
Bench said the winter months will allow time to get the course ready for the busy seasons, though it will also be open if the weather stays mild this winter.
“Our guys are there — they mowed the greens today,” he said. “It will be a beautiful course.”
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