May 23, 2005 – Carambola Golf and Country Club has had to lay off 19 employees ten months after the course was taken over by local investors.
Sam Graci, a member of the management committee of the new owners, said Monday, "It was our goal when we bought it and it remains our goal, this golf course cannot be shut down."(See "Residents, Golfers Part Owners of Carambola Golf Course").
He said the 19 employees let go represent a 40 percent reduction in the workforce with over 20 employees remaining. He expects the remaining workers to be able to keep up the maintenance and the mowing of the course. They will have the advantage of new mowers and other equipment bought by the investors.
According to Graci, the new owners tried to keep all the workers they inherited and it was "painful" to let go some long-time employees.
Lack of play, and therefor lack of revenue, was the stated reason for the layoffs.
Graci said the new owners had predicted much stronger tourist play than the course received this year. Although the course gets some golfers from other resorts and hotels, the majority of its players are people staying at the Carambola Resort. The owners taking a percentage of the projected room nights at the resort expected to see from 2,500 to 5,000 golf rounds from the resort. "We didn't get a fraction of that," said Graci. He said, besides the spurt of full occupancy when Hovensa had its turn-around crew on the island, the resort did not do well. While it has been reported that some investors thought that a proposed expansion would be completed at the Resort and help play at the course, Graci, who is in the building trade, said he never thought that would happen this year. (See "Carambola Owner-to-Be Plans Sports Center, Casino").
A second trend that hurt the course is the stagnation or possibly shrinking of the number of individuals involved in Economic Development Commission program. Graci said the 40 investors who now own the course were hoping to expand that number. He said there is room for 90 more investors and it was hoped that a number would come from EDC affiliated individuals. However, the EDC program has suffered one setback after another over the last year.(See "V.I. Advised to Stand Up for Itself on EDC Issues").
In one area the Carambola Club exceeded expectations. Graci said the food and beverage area was doing well especially for banquets. He added that lunch business was steady and dinner business was sometimes good.
He admitted to some frustration because the owners want to do more marketing of the club, but at the present time "We have been having a tough time just making payroll."
However, he said there are plans to do more marketing of the course to local residents with special promotions during the off season and he said the new owners are hoping that next tourist season it will just be better.
Lawrence Rockefeller built Carambola, a Robert Trent Jones, Sr. designed course, in 1966.
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