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Archive for Friday, May 16, 2003

Golf losses

May 16, 2003

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The city has gained a municipal golf course, but it is losing money on the Eagle Bend operation.

Several days ago, a Journal-World story noted that revenues at the city-operated Eagle Bend Golf Course are falling short of projections and it is probable that services and expenses will have to be cut to stem the losses.

This really shouldn't come as much of a surprise because municipal golf courses that make a profit or break even, based on honest accounting, certainly are in the minority. Such courses usually benefit from many fringe benefits by which taxpayers pick up the tab for various services. Eagle Bend didn't have to buy the land for the 18-hole layout, it does not pay taxes, and the city provides its water supply.

Privately owned courses must pay for these sizable expenses and still make a profit if they are to remain in business and be competitive.

Some years ago, a group of area golfers lobbied city officials to build a golf course with inexpensive greens fees. They claimed it was too costly to play other city or area courses and, eventually, city officials decided to get into the golf course business.

For some time, Alvamar Inc. officials had planned to add another 18 holes to their nationally recognized golf layout but, when it became apparent the city would get into the golf business, Alvamar officers decided to shelve their development plans. This was a major loss for Lawrence.

The challenge of operating a profitable, quality golf course in this part of the country, with winter weather reducing the number of playing days, is a major effort. When such a golf course is trying to compete with a city-owned course that doesn't have to pay for land, taxes or water, the challenge becomes even more daunting.

Lawrence taxpayers might as well get used to subsidizing Eagle Bend and covering the deficits it is likely to produce.

The question is: Just how much are taxpayers willing to pay to sustain "quality of life" activities and programs in Lawrence when many basic city services and programs are facing substantially reduced funding?

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