The nine-hole course, one of two owned by the city of Glendale, Ariz., has been losing money and needs improvements that have been estimated at over $5 million. The city is advocating selling the land for $4 million and using the proceeds to renovate parks, but a residents group has been formed to preserve the “open space and serenity” that the course provides.
The city manager of Glendale, Ariz. is recommending selling Glen Lakes Golf Course to a developer, the Arizona Republic reported.
The nine-hole course is run down and losing money, the Republic reported, and instead of investing millions to bring it up to par, City Manager Kevin Phelps said the city should sell the land and use money from the sale to renovate long-neglected city parks.
“If we are going to start fixing our parks,” Phelps said, “we have to start somewhere.”
Phelps made the recommendation about the course, one of two owned by the city, at a Glendale City Council workshop on October 23rd, the Republic reported.
Glendale should be able to get at least $4 million for the land from a developer willing to build a new neighborhood on the space, while also leaving some public green space, according to information city staff presented to the council.
The promise of public green space on the site is an attempt to soothe residents who live around the course, the Republic reported. Since the council started considering how to move forward with Glen Lakes last year, residents have rallied to save the course, which they say provides much-needed open space and serenity in their neighborhood.
“This is a tough decision, because emotionally we want to support our community,” Phelps said.
Phelps was looking for direction from the council, the Republic reported. But while Mayor Jerry Weiers and Vice Mayor Lauren Tolmachoff said they are ready to consider a sale, other council members said they needed more information from staff and more input from the public.
Phelps and other city staff took the last few months to study three different options for the land: selling it, turning it into a park, or fixing it up and continuing to operate it as a golf course, the Republic reported.
The city hired a new course operator this year (http://clubandresortbusiness.com/new-operator-contract-approved-contingency-glen-lakes-gc/), thinking new management might help the course while officials studied what repairs were needed, the Republic reported. The city agreed to subsidize the company’s operational losses up to $429,500.
In all, research by city staff found that rebuilding the irrigation system on the course, renovating accompanying buildings and doing other work would come to at least $5.1 million, the Republic reported. If financed, that would cost the city at least $370,000 each year in addition to operational costs, said Tom Duensing, assistant city manager.
The city estimates that if the number of rounds played at the course stayed the same as they were in 2017, and the city spent that much on repairs each year, it would lose at least $672,807 annually, the Republic reported.
Councilman Ian Hugh said at the October 23rd meeting that he was disappointed to hear how much repairs would cost. “I thought I would see better numbers,” he said.
To break even, the city would have to increase the cost per round from $17.59 to $20.27, and the number of rounds would have to increase from 14,182 to at least 45,492, according to the estimates.
The problem is, the number of rounds being played at the course is going down, not up, the Republic reported. At its peak, according to data the city has available, the course was at 50,000 rounds in 2005, according to Jim Burke, director of the city’s Public Facilities, Recreation and Special Events Department. The city thinks the real peak could have been closer to 60,000 in the 1990s.
The city blames the decline on the overall loss of interest in the sport and changing demographics in the area, the Republic reported. The median income and education level in areas surrounding the course is much lower than the average golfer, according to data Duensing presented.
Phelps said it pained him to recommend the sale, in part because he’s an avid golfer who has worked in the industry and appreciates the sport, the Republic reported. “The notion of closing down a golf course doesn’t come easy,” he said. But he sees the opportunity a sale would bring the city.
This summer, the Republic reported, the city contracted with a company to design and illustrate possibilities for private residential development on the land. Renderings presented at the October 23rd meeting showed a new neighborhood with a park, surrounded by a public walking path. One option showed some apartments on the site.
“I think we would be in the driver’s seat in how we would select the developer,” Phelps said.
Hugh said the idea of using the money from the sale to upgrade the city’s parks was “intriguing.”
Other council members had questions about how the city came to its estimates on how much fixing Glen Lakes would cost, the Republic reported.
For example, Councilwoman Joyce Clark pointed out what she thought it was an exaggerated estimate for fixing the course restrooms. After the city’s staff told her the estimate is actually for rebuilding the restrooms, Clark asked if the bathrooms worked now.
“I’m not looking for the Cadillac of golf courses to save it,” she said. “I’m looking for a usable facility. The most important part of the golf course are the greens.”
Phelps said the city’s staff was looking at how to make the operations of the course viable for Glendale in the long run, the Republic reported. “It wasn’t using duct tape and baling wire to keep it going,” he said. “That wasn’t the exercise staff looked at.”
A few council members asked staff to look more closely at what the facility really needed and come up with different numbers, the Republic reported.
Jean Merkel, co-leader of a resident group called Save Glen Lakes, said after the meeting that she isn’t confident in the city’s estimates, either, and that her team was going to research the costs, the Republic reported.
Merkel said she was discouraged by what she heard at the meeting, the Republic reported. She said the council should not think about the money it could get from the sale of the course, but the best use of the site for the community.
Tolmachoff said it doesn’t make sense for the city to continue to pour money into the course, given the needs across the city and Glendale’s financial situation, the Republic reported. “I don’t think it’s fiscally responsible,” she said.
A few of the council members said they have heard residents might have ideas for how to lower the costs of repairs, or how to increase course revenue, the Republic reported. That’s one reason Councilman Ray Malnar said he wanted to hold off on making a decision. He and Clark said they hoped the extra time would allow people and companies interested in chipping in to come forward.
A few council members said the city should also use the time to host more community meetings on the topic, the Republic reported.
Council member Clark offered a similar view, the Republic reported. “For 60 years or better, Glen Lakes has been a visual green space within the community, and to give that up is very, very difficult,” she said.