The Golf Club at Vistoso will suspend operations on June 1, and the Tucson city council has asked for a new study of options for the Fred Enke and Silverbell municipal courses that range from closing to conversion into parks or selling the land to private developers. The need to get permission from the National Park Service to close either course, which were built using water-conservation grants, could be a potential hangup, along with residents’ desires to keep them open and free of development.
For at least the fourth time in seven years, a golf course in the Tucson, Ariz. area is shutting down, and the city council has asked for a new study that could lead to the closing of two others.
Tucson News Now, the website of television stations KOLD CBS News 13 and KMSB Fox, reported that The Golf Club at Vistoso, located in Oro Valley, will suspend operations on Friday, June 1.
The 39 employees at Vistoso could all be losing their jobs the next day, Tucson News Now reported.
That announcement followed the closing of the Blanchard Golf Course on Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in April and the start of the conversion earlier this year by Pima County (Ariz.) to turn the long-shuttered Canoa Hills Golf Course in Green Valley into a community park, Tucson News Now reported.
In 2011, Tucson News Now reported, the last rounds were played on the Santa Rita Golf Course in Tucson.
In all cases, decreasing play and increasing utility costs, including water, have been cited as major factors in the closing of the courses.
Tucson News Now’s video report on the closing of the Golf Club at Vistoso can be viewed at: http://www.tucsonnewsnow.com/story/38301534/tucson-losing-another-golf-club-at-vistoso-closing
Arizona Public Media reported that the Tucson City Council has asked staff at the city manager’s office to look at possible options for the Fred Enke and Silverbell golf courses, each of which is operating at a loss and will require capital improvements in coming years.
The options that will be studied could include closing the courses and finding new uses for the land, Arizona Public Media reported.
“If we’re barely clearing $151,000 each year [for all five of the city’s municipal golf courses], then that doesn’t leave much capacity for the aging facilities and the capital improvement needs that they have,” said Assistant City Manager Albert Elias.
During a working session of the City Council, a variety of uses for the property were mentioned, including public parks and private development, Arizona Public Media reported.
“It’s important for people to engage so that they can express their preferences about open space, green space, golf and all the options in between,” said Elias.
In the last fiscal cycle, the Arizona Daily Star reported, the Fred Enke course lost $316,424, while the Silverbell course cost taxpayers another $106,733 to operate over expenses.
These figures, the Daily Star noted, don’t include the $25 million price tag the city estimates it will have to spend on capital projects at the courses to keep them operational during the next 20 years. Fred Enke needs $1.5 million in capital improvements during the next five years, the city said, and Silverbell, which has seen declines in rounds played, is facing about $1.1 million in needed improvements in the next five years.
All of the city’s courses are run day to day by a private management company, the Daily Star reported.
By closing a single money-losing course, city officials say, the city could decrease day-to-day and future costs, while still keeping a sizable portion of the golfers who use those courses, the Daily Star reported.
“The city’s five courses are competing against each other for market share. Closing a course would likely result in the remaining city courses capturing a portion of those 35,000 to 40,000 rounds each year,” one official wrote in a memo.
One potential hangup to closing either course, the Daily Star noted, is that a formal request would have to be submitted to the National Park Service, because the city took water-conservation funds from the Park Service to build each of them, and a stipulation in accepting those grants is that the city must permanently open a new park with land set aside for open space before it can close either course.
The city could also have a fight on another front other than golfers if it tries to close Silverbell and sell the property to a developer, the Daily Star reported, because residents in the neighborhood just to the west of the course have long had serious concerns about commercial development or multi-family housing changing the semi-rural area, along with concerns about how the closure of Silverbell would affect wildlife corridors along the banks of the Santa Cruz River.
Feedback collected several months ago from the community on the future of all of the city’s golf courses overwhelmingly opposed the closure of any of the city-owned properties, the Daily Star reported. Dozens of e-mails implored the council to keep all five courses running, saying they are an economic asset cherished by the community.
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