The city council of Grand Junction, Colo. agreed to purchase 41 acres from the city’s golf enterprise, which operates the Tiara Rado and Lincoln Park courses as a stand-alone government business, in exchange for reducing the enterprise’s debt owed to the city from a loan extended in 2010 for course improvements. The acreage could have been sold to a private developer, but will now be turned into open space.
The city of Grand Junction, Colo.’s golf enterprise, which operates the Tiara Rado and Lincoln Park golf courses as a stand-alone government business, got a shot in the arm last week when the Grand Junction City Council agreed to purchase unused golf land in exchange for reducing its debt, The Daily Sentinel of Grand Junction reported.
That land, about 41 acres adjacent to the driving range at Tiara Rado, could have been sold to a private developer, The Daily Sentinel reported. Instead, it will be turned into open space.
The sale means that the golf enterprise’s annual debt service will be reduced from about $233,171 a year to $87,797, The Daily Sentinel reported, allowing it to put some money aside for future improvements and to hire more staff to operate the Tiara Rado and Lincoln Park courses.
“In essence, we just made a big payment to pay down the principal and kind of re-amortize the debt on the same payment schedule,” said Jay Valentine, the city’s general services director who also oversees the golf enterprise.
The city’s municipal courses operate as a stand-alone business under the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights, The Daily Sentinel reported. As a result, taxpayer dollars aren’t used, though sometimes the city will use transportation money to make certain improvements, such as repaving the parking lot at Tiara Rado in 2018.
In 2010, the golf enterprise borrowed money from the city, with a favorable 1.5% interest rate, to make improvements to the back nine holes at Tiara Rado, The Daily Sentinel reported. That work included a new irrigation and water storage system.
The enterprise still owes about $2.5 million on that debt, which is to be paid off by 2030, The Daily Sentinel reported. But now with the land purchase, valued at about $1.7 million, that debt will reduce to $884,216.
“When the golf course entered into that debt agreement, that was a benefit to the golf course, because those improvements needed to be done, particularly the irrigation system and the water storage,” Valentine said.
“It was needed, but it was made at a time right before the [economic] downturn, and golf started to decline, so it became harder and harder to pay,” he added. “With that land not needed, it really opens the door to put funds aside for future improvements, but also to have the means to operate like we want to operate.”
Decades ago, The Daily Sentinel reported, there were talks about using that land to build a new par-3 course. But because of a decline in golfers in recent years and the number of courses already operating in the Grand Valley, any such plans have long since been scrapped.
This summer, the enterprise started a new fee at Lincoln Park to encourage golfers to return to the sport, essentially charging only $1 a hole, The Daily Sentinel reported. That plan seems to have worked, and Valentine plans to continue it for at least a few more years.
As a result of that fee change, revenues at the Lincoln Park course increased by more than $63,000 over 2018 revenues, according to city budget records. The course still is in the red because of increased expenses, leaving its loss at about $77,000, The Daily Sentinel reported. But that loss was more than made up at Tiara Rado, where the 18-hole course saw an increase in revenues over 2018, leaving it in the black by about $166,000.
Valentine said he hopes to now move forward to address immediate needs, such as replacing batteries in the golf carts and hiring more full-time workers, including someone who would oversee all leagues and tournaments at the two courses, The Daily Sentinel reported.
The enterprise also recently hired a new Director of Golf, Tim Tafoya, who had been working as the head pro at at Bookcliff Country Club since 2012, The Daily Sentinel reported.