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Visiting the Iron Mountain Range

The Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Board (IRRRB) has owned and operated Giants Ridge in northeast Minnesota since 1984.

BACKGROUND

The Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Board (IRRRB) has owned and operated Giants Ridge in northeast Minnesota since 1984. The property was founded as a ski area and expanded operations to include two 18-hole championship golf courses, the Legend in 1997 and the Quarry in 2004. Surrounded by the Superior National Forest, Giants Ridge consists of 1,840 acres located between the cities of Biwabik and Aurora.

Giants Ridge is a recreation destination that serves about 130,000 visitors annually. There are about 30,000 golfers and 100,000 people alpine and Nordic skiing, snow tubing, hiking and biking, playing disc golf and attending private events.

The IRRRB historically contracted with multiple vendors to manage Giants Ridge. In 2016, an RFP was released to identify a contract manager to integrate all business entities into one operator responsible for golf, ski, programming, retail and food and beverage. Guest Services, Inc. (GSI) won the award.

IMPLEMENTATION

Indigo Golf Partners formed a strategic partnership with GSI that leveraged the distinct expertise of both companies:

  • Indigo Golf Partners manages destination golf courses nationwide and was well suited to enhance the operation of the highly-ranked layouts at Giants Ridge – in Golfweek’s “Best Courses You Can Play” rankings The Quarry ranks #1 (#43 nationally) and The Legend #10.
  • GSI is recognized as America’s premier hospitality management company, as well as state and National Park Service concessionaire. Notable experience includes Bear Mountain State Park, Canaan Valley Resort, Mount Rainier National Park and the Lodge and Spa at Breckenridge.

Indigo Golf Partners was tasked to achieve sustainable financial performance without diluting the golf experience or IRRRB’s mission to create economic opportunity and diversity in the region. Our charge was clear: grow revenue, improve yield management and bolster outbound sales to increase profitability.

The harsh winters in northeast Minnesota create extremely challenging agronomic conditions. However, Indigo Golf Partners experts provide the resources and skills necessary to minimize inevitable annual turf loss and reduce recovery cost.

RESULTS

The initial years of the GSI-Indigo Golf Partners partnership is considered a great success. The IRRRB continues to benefit from Giants Ridge’s annual financial improvement stemming from the synergies created under a single entity. Additionally, Indigo Golf Partners has increased group golf sales and garnered spectacular rankings and ratings for the courses which are used as a marketing draw.

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About the Author
With 30 years’ experience in golf, Mike oversees Indigo Golf Partners growth plans and specific lease, acquisition, consulting and third-party management opportunities. He enjoys an invaluable talent of dissecting ways golf courses, country clubs and resorts can create significant new revenue and save expenses without compromise to quality. Previously, Mike managed the company’s vast southeast portfolio. A PGA member, he is a graduate of Mississippi State University, an avid cyclist and diehard college football fan.