Archive for Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Losing proposition

December 28, 2004


The city's municipal golf course has fallen far short of rosy projections for financial success.

Now isn't the time to play the "I-told-you-so" game, but many in Lawrence must be thinking back a few years, to when city officials and Lawrence golfers were telling the public a new municipal golf course would be a win-win situation for Lawrence.

A private developer who has a tremendous, civic-minded individual with a proven track record as a golf course operator had planned to build another golf course in Lawrence. However, some golfers complained about the cost of playing on a privately owned course and said the city needed a municipal course where greens fees would be in the range of $8 to $10 for nine holes and something under $20 for 18 holes.

A sufficient number of city commissioners bought into the idea, and Eagle Bend Golf Course was set in motion. This caused the private developer to cancel plans for another 18-hole course. The city hired a consultant who came up with a rosy projection for a city-owned course even though some in the city tried to warn that the findings of the city's adviser were far too optimistic.

A recent news story tells of Lawrence city commissioners approving an increase in the Eagle Bend greens fees. The new fee structure calls for golfers to pay $36 for 18 holes and a cart on weekends and $33 on weekdays.

The city golf course operation is expected to lose $103,000 in 2004 even though it pays almost nothing for land leased from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, pays no taxes on the land and gets water, a major cost for golf courses, at no charge from the city.

It is a questionable operation and one that is likely to require subsidies from city taxpayers for years to come, whereas a privately owned course pays taxes, pays for water and is not a drain on city resources.

Those dreams of greens fees in the $8 to $20 range are long gone, and the city lost the opportunity to have another first-class private course that paid its own way.

How bad would the deficit be if the city had to operate its course under the same ground rules as a private golf course owner? Is there any reason to hope this public course ever will break even financially as predicted by the city's consultant and city officials?

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