El Paso golf course to reopen under new ownership

Butterfield Trail Golf Club will reopen as early as this fall under Spirit Golf Management Southwest

Golfers in Texas could soon be playing at the Butterfield Trail Golf Club again, after it closed in May. The El Paso City Council voted unanimously at a recent meeting to award Spirit Golf Management Southwest with a 10-year contract to reopen the golf course and begin operations. 

According to the agreement, from now through the end of 2021, Spirit Golf Management Southwest will pay the city of El Paso a percentage of its revenues, ranging from 10% for food, 12% for green fees and 15% of alcohol sales. 

The minimum guarantee to the city is $125,000 in years two and three of the contract and $191,000 from 2024 forward.

Spirit Golf Management Southwest’s legal name is Spirit Golf Management LLC. However, there is another Spirit Golf Management LLC based in New Jersey, and so the New Mexico entity goes by Spirit Golf Management Southwest. 

Spirit Golf Management Southwest is owned and operated by Richard Holcomb and Todd Barranger. Holcomb owned a video production company for 17 years and Barranger was a former PGA Tour player and a director of golf. The two started the company in October 2019 and also operate Picacho Hills Country Club in Las Cruces and Sierra Del Rio Championship Golf in Elephant Butte, New Mexico

Holcomb said the plan is to reopen Butterfield Trail as soon as it can get a liquor license, hopefully by Sept. 1 or even earlier.

"Our initial plan is to get the golf course open as quickly as we possibly can," Holcomb said. "We'll apply for a liquor license, get the restaurant open and start bringing back people who play this course and bring in new people. We think this is a great opportunity."

In May, the City of El Paso closed the 18-hole course due to the financial hit the municipal budget took following the outbreak of COVID-19. El Paso Mayor Dee Margo and other officials expressed regret at shutting down the course at the time, but said they had no choice given the city's financial condition.

The city was losing more than a million dollars a year under the former management they had hired, but officials say they believe the new arrangement with Spirit Golf prioritizes profitability.

"Over the term of the contract we're going to save $20 million, that's a big deal. And the profit from the concessions agreement we estimate $3 million, so a profit of $23 million over the term of the lease," said Terri Sharpe of the city's aviation department — which is responsible for the land the golf course sits on, along with its primary duty of running El Paso International Airport.

Since its closure, the course had drawn interest from a number of potential suitors, including a top local developer who wanted to buy it; all of those offers sought to breathe new life into Butterfield.

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