After Hidden Valley Golf Course was shuttered and put up for sale in early 2015, the city decided to lease it and rename it Aztec Municipal Golf Course. After operating at a deficit for the first two years, the lease was renewed with a new arrangement for the club’s operation, but opinions still differ on the long-term viability of the city’s investment and involvement.
The city of Aztec, N.M., has about a year to decide whether it wants to continue leasing the Aztec Municipal Golf Course, located just outside of city limits, the Farmington (N.M.) Daily Times reported.
In early January 2015, the Daily Times reported, the owner of what had been known as Hidden Valley Golf Course in Aztec shuttered the facility and placed it up for sale. The city of Aztec, which has a population of just under 7,000 and is located just south of the Colorado border in northwest New Mexico, then decided to lease the course and rename it Aztec Municipal Golf Course.
“It was a huge controversial issue,” City Commissioner Sherri Sipe recalled.
The course was then closed for three months while the city did maintenance, the Daily Times reported. But while then-city manager Joshua Ray had said the city would likely break even on its investment into the course or could make some money, that didn’t happen during the initial two-year lease. At the end of 2015, the course was operating at a $95,000 deficit, and the city anticipated losing $65,000 on the course in 2016.
Still, at the end of the initial two-year lease, the City Commission voted 4-1 to renew the lease and contract with Randy Hodge, who had been operating the course for Hidden Valley and had urged the city to keep it open, the Daily Times reported.
Under the terms of the new lease, instead of paying for maintenance, the city pays only for the course lease ($20,000/year) and the golf carts ($1,920 a month for 40 carts), the Daily Times reported. At the end of the cart lease agreement, the city will pay $72,000 and own the 40 carts.
Hodge reimburses the city for the liquor license and provides the city with 20 percent of the revenue from renting carts to golfers.
The new operating agreement will end Dec. 31, 2019, and the other agreements will end in early 2020, the Daily Times reported.
“I just feel like the very best-case scenario was sold to the city when it was [originally] presented to the commissioners,” Aztec Mayor Victor Snover, who was elected to the commission in March, told the Daily Times. “And I feel like that best-case scenario was not really a reality.”
Snover expressed several concerns about the long-term viability of the arrangement, including water use at the golf course during extreme drought, shrinking interest in golf, and spending money on the course when the city is struggling to pay for other priority projects.
The course averages 11,000 rounds played each year, Hodge told the Daily Times. In addition, the course was used by a yoga class during the summer, and Aztec Trails and Open Space recently added a disc golf course.
Community members also highlighted the value of the course, including providing a venue for Special Olympics and the First Tee of San Juan County.
“It fills a niche that a few people can participate in,” said Pat Swope, a coach for First Tee of San Juan County (N.M.). “If we didn’t have the golf course, it would be very difficult to have that program.”
Sipe, the City Commissioner, told the Daily Times that she thought the course was an important asset to keep in the community, noting that no “quality of life” asset pays for itself.