Cities, towns and villages in Pennsylvania, Alabama, Oregon, Illinois, Georgia, Iowa, and California are devising new ways to make municipal golf courses profitable or at least stop losing money. Officials in Allentown, Pa., plan to reduce the negative balance in the city golf fund by developing a business plan rather than relying on a third-party management firm.
Cities and towns are revisiting their approaches toward managing municipal golf courses.
- In Allentown, Pa., city officials are attempting to make Allentown Municipal Golf Course a moneymaker without outside help, the Allentown-based Morning Call reported.
After considering proposals last year to lease the golf course to a private operator, course administrators said they are confident they can reduce the negative balance in the city’s golf fund without the help of a lessee, Morning Call reported.
Lindsay Taylor, the city’s director of parks and recreation, said her department is planning to develop a comprehensive business plan and a capital improvement program for the course. Among the ideas under consideration is using an automated ball-dispensing machine at the driving range. Employees now hand out each bucket to players. Automated ball-dispensing machines are common at area courses, Morning Call reported.
Allentown Municipal, which has a self-supported fund in the city’s budget, ended last year $107,303 in the red. That’s an improvement over the $165,077 the course lost in 2014, but still a drain on the city that had to tap its solid waste fund to plug an $8 million hole in its 2016 budget. In five of the last six years, the course ended the season with a negative fund balance, Morning Call reported.
- The Sunset Landing Golf Course in Huntsville, Ala., is back open after Port of Huntsville leaders announced it would close in late January. The course is operating under new management by The Birdie Boys II, a partnership between Mike Parrish and Andy Villarreal. Tennessee Valley Golf Management previously ran the course for the Huntsville-Madison County Airport Authority, Alabama.com reported.
Sunset Landing reopened two weeks ago and is planning a grand opening celebration and golf tournament. Parrish is a PGA golfer with almost 40 years of experience, while Villarreal is a restaurateur and service industry professional. Villarreal will handle Sunset Landing’s food and beverage business, which includes catering, a full-service bar and grille, Alabama.com reported.
- Portland, Ore., Mayor Charlie Hales wants to turn part of the 85-year-old Broadmoor Golf Course into an industrial area, angering golfers, neighbors and environmental groups. The golf course sits between two wetlands and alongside the Columbia Slough, which the city has spent millions of dollars to restore, the Portland-based KGW reported.
But Hales, along with Commissioners Steve Novick and Dan Saltzman, recently proposed an amendment to the city’s zoning plan that would allow 57 acres of the golf course to be designated for industrial use. The land is currently zoned as open space. An attorney representing the property owners said the change would allow them to sell the land down the road if they wanted, with a goal of providing a balance between industrial use and natural resources, KGW reported.
- University Park, Ill., is moving forward with plans to sell or lease its 18-hole golf course and 7,000-sq. ft. clubhouse at the 120-acre University Golf Club and Conference Center facility, the Chicago Tribune reported.An agreement with Governors State University to host collegiate tournaments and team practices at the site ended this year with the closing of the tax-supported golf operation, which has been hemorrhaging money, the Tribune reported.Mayor Vivian Covington said she shares the concerns of residents who “think it’s become a big tax burden, it’s been losing hundreds of thousands (of dollars).” She also said elected officials have had little involvement in the golf operation’s management, estimating village costs at $35,000 a month. In the past, trustees have estimated the village has lost $10 million to 12 million on the facility, the Tribune reported.
- LaFayette (Ga.) Municipal Golf Course has lost an average of $150,000 per year going back to 1998. Since 2010, the course has lost an average of $230,000 annually, the Chattanooga Times Free Press reported.
In February, representatives from LaFayette joined those from 18 other cities for a Georgia Municipal Association-sponsored summit on city-operated golf courses. The municipal leaders bounced ideas off each other, trying to find out what plans were working at different courses throughout the state. They floated the idea of forming a co-op, with all the courses buying supplies in bulk to drive down prices. They talked about marketing themselves together and maybe forming joint memberships, with golfers allowed to play at all of their municipal courses, the Free Press reported.
After the summit, the city’s elected officials debated last month what they should do. Some councilmen liked the idea of rounding out the course with additional sports, but they agree those measures won’t help enough. Simply, the mayor, the council, and the city manager all agreed: The course needs more golfers. The course stays relatively busy, with about 70 golfers per day, the Free Press reported.
- Officials in Cedar Rapids, Iowa are hiring a consultant to evaluate its municipal golf operations, which include four popular city-owned courses but ones that lose money every year. Gardner, Jones, Twin Pines and Ellis golf courses have all reopened for the season. The city is hiring a consultant to study how to make the golf department sustainable, and, if this is not possible, what is the best alternative, the Cedar Rapids Gazette reported.
Under consideration are a full spectrum of options from selling off or closing one or more of the courses, leasing to private operators, or if more financial investment can open new revenue streams, such as expanding food and beverage, merchandising, banquets, and off-season activities. Pricing, privatizing maintenance, and whether the golf market is saturated will also be considered, the Gazette reported.
- After years of contentious debate, the Livermore, Calif., city council voted to shutter the Springtown Golf Course, despite a last-ditch proposal to resuscitate the course through building office space on adjacent land. The decision eliminates a long-standing quagmire for city leaders, who had been balancing the golf course’s large deficits with lobbying from those who said it was too valuable to be scrapped, the San Jose, Calif., Mercury News reported.
The nine-hole course had been operated by the city since 1971. It had accumulated a debt of $730,000 to the city’s general fund by the fiscal year 2008-2009, the News reported.