The 25-year-old Manassas Park, Va. course will close on May 19, after a deal was struck by Prince William County and the city to extricate the county from a lease that was not set to expire until 2027. The course, located in an historic park with sloping terrain, has lost money every year it has been operated, largely because of high maintenance costs. It may now be reforested, but must still be reserved for some form of recreational use.
General’s Ridge Golf Course in Manassas Park, Va. will host its final foursomes on the weekend of May 18-19, in the wake of a decision to shutter the property that is owned by Prince William County (Va.) and has operated in the red for years, the Prince William Times of Warrenton, Va. reported.
The Prince William Board of Supervisors voted unanimously on May 7 to close the 18-hole course through a deal with the City of Manassas Park, from which the county had leased the 270-acre, 18-hole course since 1994, the Times reported. As part of the deal, the supervisors agreed to pay Manassas Park $489,212 to extract the county from its 33-year-lease, which did not expire until 2027.
The supervisors also agreed to return four parcels of land to the independent city, three of which are part of Signal Hill Park, an open space operated by Manassas Park’s Park & Recreation department that includes an historic Confederate Army military site.
The fourth parcel is privately held land that connects Signal Hill Park to the city’s municipal boundary, according to county documents, the Times reported.
Supervisor Marty Nohe, R-Coles, said the deal is a good one for the county because the golf course, which was originally hoped to make money for the county’s former park authority, never achieved that goal, the Times reported. “It didn’t make money a single year we had it,” Nohe said. “In fact, it’s lost money by the bucket load.”
Prince William County operates three other courses, the Times reported: Prince William Golf GC in Nokesville, Va. and Forest Greens in Triangle, Va., which are both 18-hole courses, and Lake Ridge Park Golf Course, which has nine holes.
The other golf courses also lose money, the Times reported, but not as much as General’s Ridge, which is more expensive to maintain in part because of its sloping terrain, according to Brent Heavner, spokesman for Prince William County’s Parks and Recreation Department.
“General’s Ridge, by itself, has accounted for more than 50 percent of losses for the golf operation writ large,” Heavner said.
Closing the golf course would save Prince William County about $2.5 million over the course of the remaining eight years left on the lease, the Times reported, according to Seth Hendler-Voss, the county’s Director of Parks and Recreation.
General Ridge’s challenging terrain also created another reason why the course struggled financially, Nohe said. “It’s always been the least popular of the three [18-hole golf courses] because it’s so difficult to play,” he told the Times in an interview before the vote.
A recent survey of golfers also showed that several who played the course had traveled to it from outside the county, most commonly from Fairfax and Loudoun counties, Nohe added.
There are now also several privately owned and operated golf courses in the area, which wasn’t true when General’s Ridge opened in 1996, the Times reported. For those reasons, the county considered it a win to offload the course, Nohe said.
“On the county side, it’s a win for us because we’re no longer going to be dumping money into a facility that very few people use,” Nohe said.
Manassas Park Mayor Jeanette Rishell said the city is still considering its options for what to do with the General’s Ridge golf course, the Times reported. Part of the course may eventually be reforested—a move that would help the city meet new requirements related to the Chesapeake Bay Act—but that has not yet been decided, Rishell said.
“There are no immediate plans for the golf course, and the Manassas Park governing body would take a look at all staff recommendations in order to make an informed decision,” Rishell said in an e-mail to the Times.
“At some point it certainly could be reforested,” she added. “But right now, there are no immediate plans.”
The original purchase of the land used for the General’s Ridge course involved federal grant funds, and the grant’s restrictions say it must be used for recreation purposes, Rishell noted.
“Any change of use will need to go through and be approved by the federal government, however long that may take,” she added. “So it is uncertain when we will have the flexibility to make any decisions.”
The decision to close General’s Ridge “underscores that we have to be very careful when we dabble in enterprises that interfere with private industry,” Supervisor Pete Candland, R-Gainesville, noted. Government should not be in a position to “compete with the private sector,” Candland added, the Times reported.
No one on the Board made mention of the fact that the vote to close General’s Ridge took place on the same day the supervisors would later hear about $200 million worth of new park projects that could be put before voters in a referendum in November, the Times reported. Those projects include an $84 million indoor track complex, a $21 million indoor field house and a $42 million aquatics and fitness center.
As if anticipating the question about competing with private industry, the Times reported, Hendler-Voss noted in his presentation that the proposed field house, which would provide turf fields for soccer, lacrosse and other sports, would not necessarily compete with similar private entities.
“The modest inventory in the county supplied privately is not large enough to serve entire leagues,” Hendler-Voss said, adding: “The county has 30,000 league participants.”