NORTH CANTON — Arrowhead Golf Club has a new operator.

Mayor David Held announced Monday afternoon the owners of Papa Bear’s/Pizza Oven restaurants have signed a contract with North Canton to run the 18-hole, par 70 golf course and banquet center.

The city-owned property will remain in the hands of North Canton, with the DiPietro family handling day-to-day business.

Among the highlights of the deal, according to Held, is a restaurant with daily hours for lunch and dinner.

It won’t be a Papa Bear’s but will serve “fun food” made fresh with a changing seasonal menu, Steve DiPietro said at the afternoon news conference. “It really should be a fun community spot to go visit whether you’re a golfer or not.”

The DiPietros plan to make Arrowhead a year-round, seven-day-a-week venture.

“We’re looking at this as not just a golf play, but a food, beverage and entertainment play,” DiPietro said.

The family also owns Skyland Pines Golf Course in Canton and Ohio Prestwick Country Club in Green.

A membership to one of the clubs would give you the ability to golf at all three, DiPietro said.

Plans also call for live music or entertainment every weekend at one of the venues, he said.

They also plan to add new amenities to Arrowhead, such as pickleball and bocce ball courts, for those who don’t golf.

The DiPietro family will hit the ground running. All events currently scheduled will go on as planned.

“All the brides will be happy. All the events will be taken care of it. It will be completely seamless to the customer,” DiPietro said. “We’re here for everybody. We’re accessible. We’re here for you.”

North Canton has been seeking new operators, or at least a new deal with current operators, for weeks.

City officials in March issued a letter to the club’s previous operators, R&S Golf Properties, that they were in breach of the lease agreement and behind in rent and tax payments. About a month ago, city administrator Patrick DeOrio put that figure at roughly $300,000 in unpaid rent, as of the start of 2019.

Arrowhead covers about 105 acres in the southwest section of North Canton. The city purchased the facility, which includes a golf course, swimming pool and clubhouse, for $4.2 million in 2003.

In 2008, R&S Golf Properties — Rob Purcell and Scott DeMuesy — took over operations from the first managers, Larizza Management Group, by assuming terms of that contract. Both operators struggled to meet the rent and tax obligations of that agreement.

The city is negotiating an exit strategy with the current operators. The transition should be finalized by the end of the month, DeOrio said.

The DiPietros will operate with a temporary contract for about five months while the city drafts a final contract and goes through the legislative process, he said.

Under the temporary contract, the city will pay a management fee of $5,000 per month. The contract emphasizes transparency — any revenue will be deposited into a bank account the city can access, and expenses above a certain dollar amount will need city approval.

“There will be no unknown in this new entity for the city or the community or the citizens of North Canton,” DiPietro said.

The permanent contract will be a departure from the triple net lease model the city employed with past operators.

Instead, the city is pursing a business management model. The deal will include a profit-sharing provision front-loaded to the city, DeOrio said.

For example, the first $300,000 would go to the city to invest back into Arrowhead and make needed improvements, he said.

Arrowhead needs about $3.2 million in upgrades to bring facilities “to a standard that will provide long-term viability of the golf course and country club facilities,” according to a report from Environmental Working Group commissioned by the city earlier this year.

The more profit Arrowhead brings in, the larger percentage the operators will keep, DeOrio said.

“Golf is a tough sector to make money in. Our expectations are realistic. We don’t look at this to be some sort of panacea for revenues to the city,” he said. “It’s about getting whatever revenues there are and redeploying them into the facility to make it even more of an asset that people in this community could go to.”

The city looked into transforming Arrowhead into a park, with walking trails and other amenities, but “the expense just would have been too much for the city bear at this time,” Held said.

Four companies submitted proposals to take over Arrowhead. The two local applicants were the current operators and the DiPietro family, Held said.

A city committee evaluated the applicants and assessed the needs. Going a new direction was a difficult decision, he said.

But when the DiPietros submitted an application, the decision was easy, Held said.

The family has the business expertise required and also know North Canton as both Dave and Steve DiPietro’s children graduated from Hoover High School. They also proposed the lowest management fee.

“We love to have people who understand the community, understand the needs of the community,” Held said.

Steve DiPietro pointed to the family’s success at increasing business at Skyland Pines and long history of working in golf courses and restaurants.

“We grew up on golf courses. Since we were 10 and 8 years old. It’s in our blood,” he said. “We grew up in restaurants. We started making boxes when we were 5. Our father knew child labor didn’t apply to his own and taught us how to work.”

New businesses will be attracted to services provided at Arrowhead, Held said. He also hinted at future jobs announcements at the former Hoover plant.

The facility plans to employ 40 people.

“We’re looking forward to serving all of you,” DiPietro said. “We look at this as a city asset and we’ve been entrusted with it, and we’ll take care of it just like we own it.”

 

Reach Jessica at 330-580-8322 or jessica.holbrook@cantonrep.com

On Twitter: @jholbrookREP