Springtown Golf Course in Livermore, Calif., will close in mid-October, after its operator, Sycamore Landscaping, goes out of business. In Modesto, Calif., city officials will discuss whether to close the Modesto Municipal Golf Course as part of an effort to reduce the general fund’s golf subsidy, which is expected to be nearly $783,000 this year.
Springtown Golf Course, the 43-year old city-owned golf course in Livermore, Calif., which has emerged as a point of contention between residents and city officials, will close in mid-October, the Marin (Calif.) Independent Journal reported.
In an email last week, Livermore Public Works Director Darren Greenwood informed residents that the golf course will shut down indefinitely starting October 15 because the course’s operator, Sycamore Landscaping, is going out of business, the Journal reported.
The long-term future of the nine-hole course, cherished by neighbors and longtime patrons, is unclear. Greenwood said that the city would circulate a request for proposals for new lease operators and will continue to irrigate and mow the course, so it could potentially reopen. The city also is planning to circulate a community survey to figure out whether residents will support a special assessment district to fund golf operations, the Journal reported.
Tension between residents, the city and Sycamore boiled over at a meeting this summer, where residents implored the city to foot the bill to subsidize the course, which would come at a price tag of about $250,000 per year. The city had been subsidizing about $75,000 of Sycamore’s costs for the past three years, primarily through providing free maintenance and other services to keep the course afloat. But the operator had recently informed the city that it would need more help to keep the course open, the Journal reported.
Sycamore signed a 10-year lease to run the course in 2009, but the company was unable to stem the course’s declining popularity. According to Greenwood, rounds played are down about 30 percent since 2008 and would need to increase about 75 percent for the course to break even, the Journal reported.
Springtown Course Manager Jason Cain said the company tried its hardest to make the course profitable, but a combination of a lack of golf course management experience, an unfavorable contract with the city, and high water costs was too much to surmount, the Journal reported.
“They rode this as far as they could. They tried to do whatever they could to maintain it,” Cain said. “They just came to the point where, quite literally, they had no money.”
Cain said the course has a steady clientele of locals and estimated that about 20 percent of golfers play 80 percent of the rounds. The course is a favorite of elderly golfers and those with disabilities who are looking to play at a leisurely pace. He said the course should be supported by the city, just like a public park or a library, the Journal reported.
Greenwood said a long-term subsidy for a new operator is still on the table, in addition to the course being transformed into open space or possibly being the site of future residential development. He said the question of whether the land should continue to be a golf course would be considered by the City Council before the end of the year, the Journal reported.
In Modesto, Calif., city officials will discuss today whether to close one of the city’s three golf courses and other options to reduce the general fund subsidy to the golf fund, which is expected to be nearly $783,000 in the current budget year, the Modesto Bee reported.
City documents show Modesto would reduce its general fund subsidy the most by closing the nine-hole Modesto Municipal Golf Course. The city has talked about closing the course several times in recent years, the Bee reported.
Closing Muni would cut the subsidy to an annual average of $326,000 over five years, according to the documents. The documents say the subsidy would increase if the city were to close the 18-hole Creekside Golf Course or the 18-hole Dryden Golf Course. For instance, the subsidy to the golf fund would be more than $1 million annually over five years if the city closed Creekside, the Bee reported.
Other options include contracting with an organization to take over the full operations, including the finances, of the Muni golf course. The First Tee of Central Valley manages Muni for the city in lieu of paying rent, the Bee reported.
First Tee Executive Director Cathy Mendoza said her organization is “open to the idea of creative management of the course and a partnership that would be a win-win situation.” She said that whatever decisions are made, First Tee will continue. It operates under the auspices of the nonprofit Del Rio CC Foundation, the Bee reported.
The city also could continue to have ValleyCrest Golf Maintenance take care of the three courses and KemperSports manage the two 18-hole courses under a new two-year contract that would slightly reduce the subsidy, the Bee reported.
Closing the Muni golf course would be a blow for the community. Modestans have learned how to play golf at the venerable nine-hole course for more than 60 years, the Bee reported.
Modestan Hollie McCain may be a newcomer to the sport, but she played her first round at the Muni course earlier this year. She said she respects its deep roots in the community. “It’s a beautiful place. It’s something to look forward to in this area,” she said. “It’s shame to get rid of something with so much history.”
A city report also outlines about $2.9 million in capital improvements the golf courses need, such as a new irrigation system and repaving the parking lot. The report does not say where the city would get the money to pay for the improvements, the Bee reported.
The 163-acre Creekside course opened in 1991. The report states it is the easiest to water, and as the city’s newest course, it needs the fewest capital improvements. The city is paying off the debt to build the course until 2023. The annual payment is $526,292, the Bee reported.
The report states the 130-acre Dryden course is in a floodplain, and if it were to close, it could become part of the nearby Tuolumne River Regional Park. But there is a caveat. The Dryden family donated half of the land for the course in 1955 with the condition that it be used for an 18-hole municipal golf course. Changing the use of the land would require the family’s consent, the Bee reported.
The report states the 54-acre Muni course’s proximity to John Thurman Field makes it a good location for such athletic uses as junior or senior league softball, soccer and baseball, the Bee reported.
The city’s courses have been hit hard by four years of drought. And it comes as the city tries to reduce or eliminate general fund subsidies to city operations. The general fund makes up about a third of the city’s roughly $367 million operating budget and primarily pays for public safety. The fund shrank during the Great Recession and has not yet rebounded. But the need for subsidies persists, the Bee reported.