What Should Be Done About The Golf Course?

Brent Finnegan -- October 25th, 2010

This is the sixth installment of the 2010 Q&A series with Harrisonburg City Council candidates.

What (if anything) should be done to address the Heritage Oaks Golf Course operating deficit?

golf

Photo by Flickr user chispita_666 via Creative Commons.

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Joe Fitzgerald: Councilman Wiens has initiated a citizens’ committee to study the future of Heritage Oaks, and I think we need to respect that effort, just as I asked others to respect the efforts of the Heath Commission that I initiated in 2000.

Some of the issues they should consider are whether to sell beer, how to better market the course, whether to try establishing a restaurant there, and whether to outsource marketing or management. Some of those issues are discussed here, along with some history of the course. The text for the video is here for those who’d rather read than watch.

The video includes this reminder about 2000. “The city had signed a contract. The trees had been cut. The money had been borrowed. Closing down the project was just not possible. If we’d shut it down, we couldn’t have opened three new schools. The commission we appointed told us the questions wasn’t whether we should have built a golf course, but whether we had to continue the project.”

I told people before the 2000 election that regardless of who won, we’d be stuck with a golf course. Ten years later, we need to put the arguments of 2000 behind us and figure out how to make it pay more. Reiterating, the main options are beer sales, a restaurant, and outsourcing the marketing.

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Carolyn Frank: Below is a excerpt from the Golf Course Commission of 2000, presented at the July 1 meeting. I also asked several people including a banker about the bond issue. It was a general obligation bond and would not have impacted the credit rating of the city. The tax payers have always paid the debt service on the bond. The golf course has never generated enough revenue to pay the operational cost at the course.

Bob Heath, former Mayor Harrisonburg, and Chairman of the Citizens’ Advisory Committee, which the three new members of Council had created to advise them on the golf course presented a preliminary report to City Council. Mr. Heath said that including himself the committee consisted of Mike Layman, Julius Roberston, Dean Elders, Eric Gordon, John Sellers, Kathy Whitten, Rudy Propst, Warren Dillenbeck, and Wayne Alley. The committee met ten times to discuss this issue, walked over the golf course and discussed the finances of the proposed golf course. Mr. Heath said that all ten of the committee members agreed with the conclusion. Mr. Heath read the following conclusion: The issue is not whether the golf course should have been built but whether it should be completed. The situation today is entirely different from what it was before construction begin. Mr. Heath said that if the City should decide to complete the golf course based on the above analysis, there are compelling reasons to do so and he named those reasons. The “compelling reasons” are that the Golf Course may have a reasonable chance of success if carefully managed, the amount of money already spent and the additional cost required to stop construction would be a major reason to move forward. The fact that the bond issue has been sold with a 10-year non-callable feature that will add to the complication and the cost of stopping construction. He said that although this is not a recommendation, it is a conclusion, but it simply says if you decide to move forward these are the things that would be important in that decision.

Now, we are at $6.4 million borrowed, spent and owed(the amount of the bond), plus additional millions spent. Today, we are more limited than we were in 2000. The bond would have to be paid off before we could sell or lease the course. Because, the bond is tax exempt, we are limited in our options in operating the course( ex. leasing to private enterprise for profit a restaurant on site). We need to wait on the committee’s report and look at implementing any reasonable and cost effective suggestions to close the operating deficit. I would never vote to sell the course to private enterprise. I believe the land is a valuable asset to the city and must stay under city control. FYI the town of Buena Vista borrowed $7.4 M to build a golf course, shortly after Harrisonburg did. They have become the first municipality in Virginia’s history to default on their bond payments. A reminder that things could be worst.

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Charlie Chenault: The deficit is worth addressing. First, Councilman Wiens’ advisory committee approach is well thought out and very reasonable. I believe it will produce some results. It is my opinion that the operating deficit for Heritage Oaks Golf Course will not decrease until the number of rounds played increase. You can sell alcohol and put in more elaborate food service, but the resulting increase in revenue will be disproportionate to the investment. It may not even cover the costs of the improvements required to sell beer and food. Increased rounds are generated by intense and focused marketing which probably has not been done for Heritage Oaks. It may be that a marketing guru is on the radar to market the course to every group that will listen which includes civic organizations, hotel chains and large employers as a benefit for their employees, etc.. In this week’s DNR, an article recounted how Lakeview was accepted into the Virginia Trails golf program which should help increase its play and will probably help Heritage Oaks (those who travel to a locality to play a course generally play the other courses in the area). I checked to see why Heritage Oaks did not make the cut and was told it was because we lacked food service and lounge facilities. Also, I believe the budget for the operations end of the course could probably be trimmed and the clubhouse merchandising cut back. I know that these are solutions that the advisory committee is looking at.

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Ted Byrd: The operating deficit of Heritage Oaks Golf Course is a major concern of both City management and of the City Council. We have appointed a citizen advisory committee to review our current operations and make recommendations to improve Heritage Oaks’ current and future fiscal operations. Currently, under the bond provisions that were used to finance the construction of the course, the City needs to operate this course as long as we have outstanding indebtedness. The City has partnered with the First Tee Program to introduce this lifelong sport to our youth, and Parks and Recreation have provided instructional programs for City Adults as part of our total Recreation Program that we provide to our residents. Bottom line, we have a wonderful asset that needs to be packaged and marketed to area residents and visitors that will increase the number of rounds played thus lowering the operational deficit.

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Sal Romero: The golf course is certainly the most frequent issue that has been brought up time and time again for quite some time now and must be addressed. I believe the initiative taken by council member Dave Wiens and the support of city council to sponsor a committee that will study in depth the various options that would allow the golf course to stop the current operating deficit is a great start. I trust the committee is taking this issue very seriously since it is affecting the taxpayers of our city. I am confident the committee’s recommendations will allow the golf course to start a new and positive operating record.

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Greg Coffman: All of the facts and figures on all the Parks and Recreation Department’s programs should be presented to the taxpayers so that an accurate comparison can be made. Some of those facts need to be costs, number of citizens each program serves, future prospects for each program, operating budgets, etc. Then provide for one or more public meetings that will allow for open discussion between the Council and the taxpayers. Give the residents the opportunity to interact directly with Council rather than just giving their comments one after the other. Have either Council or a committee draft all of the options that would apply to the golf course. Once the options are published, let the taxpayers vote on them. It could be done via referendum, internet survey, or any other legitimate and secure way. We live in the state’s capital for technology; if Council decides it doesn’t want to have an actual referendum there are many ways to get the public’s preference using available technology. The problem with the golf course is that the public has always felt left out of the process that approved it. It isn’t about whether or not we have a golf course; it’s about how we make important budgetary decisions that indebt future residents. I trust the voters and am prepared to act as the majority directs. On the golf course, I have no preference. We need to put this matter to rest, and, in my opinion, the only way to give Council proper direction is to address it in this open manner. Not every decision requires such an extraordinary step, but this one has continued for too long. Let the voters vote so we can move forward.

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Election day is Tuesday, November 2. Voters may select up no more than two candidates from a field of six.

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58 Responses to “What Should Be Done About The Golf Course?”

  1. How would Greg Coffman remedy the financial problems at Heritage Oaks?

  2. charles chenault says:

    By operations, I mean clubhouse and pro-shop, not course and grounds.
    Thanks – Charlie

  3. Andrew Neckowitz says:

    The first picture is from Packsaddle. I know this, because I’m in it.

  4. Renee says:

    I have always thought that if the golf course was open for more citizens to use for non-golf purposes, that people would accept it more.

    For instance, my mom lives in a golf community and there are ladies that get together and walk the course early in the morning or late in the evening when it’s not open or there are few golfers. For reasons unknown to me, Heritage Oaks land is completely off-limits to people not golfing, even though we all pay tax dollars for it.

    Also, is there any discussion of it becoming a 9-hole course and using half of the land for something that would earn money or at least be more widely used by Harrisonburg citizens, such as a dog park, mini-golf course, outdoor concert area, and/or playground?

  5. Emmy says:

    If the issue is money then whatever they decide needs to bring in more money. I agree with Renee that it should be open for walking. There’s really no reason not to allow people to walk the course before or after hours. To use it as a dog park would really require shutting half of it down for that purpose only. Golfers aren’t going to want to play on a course that’s been used as a dog’s bathroom. This could cost the course money if those who do play it want to play a full course.

    So do you close half of it and risk losing golfers who want to play a full course? Do you add something to that other half that costs money to build, but that may bring in more money in the long run? I know that often times you have to spend money to make money, but in this situation I feel like that will go over like a lead balloon with the public. It’s going to be a tough call for those in charge of making the decision.

    I’m not sure what the right answer is. My son participates in the 1st Tee program and we really enjoy the course. I wonder if more focus could be on getting new golfers from 1st Tee parents by offering introductory discounts or something similar. My children had a school fundraiser that included golf discount cards. There were no local courses available in the listing of courses. Perhaps putting this course into programs like that would encourage more people to play it, especially if no other local courses participate.

    I think it would be good to know why golfers think it is losing money. Are the fees too high? Is it a poor course to play? What about other local courses make them successful and this one not? What would bring them to this course over the others?

    • Nothing eases the pain of a “good walk, spoiled” like a wee dram at the clubhouse.

    • Renee says:

      I’m not suggesting shutting down 9 holes just for a dog park, I’m suggesting closing 9 holes and building multiple things on that half of the land that more people than just golfers can enjoy. Also, a dog park doesn’t have to be huge (though there are a lot of dogs in this town and I think it would get heavily used).

      I also like the frisbee golf ideas below.

      I imagine it being used by families similarly to how Burke Lake Park is in northern Virginia, but without the lake part.

      It would differ from Purcell by having specific-use areas: dog park, mini-golf, frisbee golf, rentable shelters for parties, whatever.

      I’m sure cutting the “golfable land” in half would HUGELY reduce maintenance costs – maybe enough to pay for whetever else would be built there. They spend a lot of money on mowing, fertilizer, watering, etc etc to keep it in golf course condition.

      But at the VERY least – I would push for it to at least be open to walkers. It’s ridiculous that I’ve lived adjacent to the land for several years and have never been able to enjoy it since I don’t golf. I’d rather walk on the paved path though landscaped land than on the street with no sidewalks that has cars parked on both sides.

      • DebSF says:

        I’ve heard Dave Wiens say that the estimate of maintaining all the acreage of Heritage Oakes as just bare-bones parkland (not a dog park, or any other rec activities) would be $200,000/yr. That does not include the costs of converting from it’s current use.

        • Bazrik says:

          Scroll down about 6 posts – you’ll see what its budget is – a little scary.

          • Deb SF says:

            I saw that a few days ago. Really understanding what’s going on over there means more than selectively looking at current costs, but rationally looking at the entire management of the course.

            The operating deficit has been roughly $400,000ish a year. If you operated the area as a semi-wild park (generating $0 revenue), it’s estimated to cost about $200,000/yr (178 acres @ $1,125 or so/yr)in maintenance. So the true operating gap to close is the difference between those 2 numbers, not $400,000 and $0. Yeah, there’s the bond issue. But they were approved/issued in May/2000, and the tax-free status is important.

            Most courses have a golf pro and a separate course manager – 2 full time jobs. We have one person filling both functions, a significant organizational structure/management issue. As a result, marketing has not been able to be a huge priority. And we know there’s lots of potential revenue to be captured in food and beer/wine sales. Right now, people buy it elsewhere and bring it onto the course on their own.

            Every other alternative that’s been casually tossed around here would cost money to convert and cost > $1,125 an acre a year to maintain, with revenue streams either negligible or $0. Strip the rest of the course to 9 holes in order to do something else with the other half, and you gut its real revenue-generating potential.

            By all measures, it’s a good course on its own merits, and people like playing it. The design is friendly to women as well as men, and to players of all ages. A lot of people in this town were in favor of it – the 2000 election was about anger at process as much as it was about the golf course itself.

            This isn’t Sim City. Everything has an opportunity cost. This is a recreational facility that’s almost a decade old (next Sept), and it’s long past time to deal with it rationally and realistically. Remember the chickens? That little, simple idea? Anything you propose to re-purpose the course is going to ignite white-hot controversy, from the pooping/peeing/barking dogs to the sketchy teenagers throwing frisbees at baskets on poles. Everyone’s a special interest as far as this goes.

            Except maybe walking. We can probably be calm about the walking on the golf course course suggestion. Because it’s a really, really good one, and it’s nearly free.

          • Renee says:

            Well I’d be much happier if at least the walking option were considered :)

    • Renee says:

      Emmy, I agree with you that research needs to be done on why it is a less popular course.

  6. DebSF says:

    In the course of last few weeks, I’ve been talking about the golf course to a lot of people who weren’t here at the time, folks kind of mystified as to why it’s such a big deal 10 years later, trying to give a sense how how it all came to be, the history, etc. Here’s a metaphor for your consideration, created in collaboration with a friend of mine:

    So it’s kinda like the brother-in-law, the one you don’t really like, who your sister met in some mysterious place and married too fast, in a ceremony you weren’t even invited to, the guy who would cost a fortune to divorce and doesn’t have a great job, but who has a couple of great kids with the sister and who gets along well with the parents and the neighbors. The one we can’t get rid of and have to figure out how to get along with. That one.

    Metaphors be with us.

    • Bazrik says:

      Add this to your metaphor – the brother-in-law costs HUNDREDS of thousands of dollars each and every year, even in a bad economy.

    • Daniel says:

      We did not invite you, Deb, because of the medication you were on. But if you must know, your sister and I got married on top of a mountain, and there were flutes playing and trombones and flowers and garlands of fresh herbs. We danced till the sun came up!

      One day our children will form a family band! And we will tour the countryside and you won’t be invited!

      • DebSF says:

        Yup. You’re “that” guy.

      • Bazrik says:

        Now that was funny. Well played Daniel!

        A quick side note about this – did a little digging, and came up with this excerpt from the City budget from the ever-useful hburgnews.com Archive:

        Highway/street beautification – $273,674
        Street cleaning – $474,068
        Water purification – $976,166
        Westover Pool – $416,420
        Rec Center and Playgrounds – $666,496
        **Golf Course Management – $699,693
        **Golf Course Clubhouse – $469,666
        Economic Development – $610,096
        Downtown Renaissance – $161,249

        Over $1.1 MILLION for the course last year. I’m curious – what did it bring in? If it was over a million, I’ll gladly shut up. If not – what the heck are we doing here?! I mean, Downtown Renaissance’s budget is ONE SEVENTH of the Golfcourse. It’s just bad business with no tangible return!

        • Jason B says:

          That’s why I’ve always advocated dumping the golf course and instead spend the money to turn downtown into a pedestrian mall.

          • David Miller says:

            Or we could simply let the course naturally return to its grassland/early forest roots by never mowing it again. Transfer the entire budget to Dtown and call it a day. People could golf Scottish style if they wanted. Granted, I might be a little biased ;) We sure could use that 1.1 million towards a new parking garage downtown. I’d love to hear your ideas on a pedestrian mall, haven’t seen any yet that are workable but I love the idea.

          • JGFitzgerald says:

            The Downtown Renaissance began with a discussion of a downtown mall. That’s when Eddie Bumbaugh got involved and turned a discussion into a reality. Maybe it’s worth re-starting the mall idea, if we can get that kind of results again. (Although having a U.S. highway through downtown is an impediment to closing or re-routing streets.)

  7. David Miller says:

    Yeah, hence the “workable” stipulation. That route 11 is an Interstate 81 bypass is a not so minor part of the problem as well.

  8. Derik says:

    I think downtown would need more retail before council could be convinced to even study the idea of turning it into a full time walking mall.
    From what I understand there are some businesses that feel they rely on drive by traffic and parking in close proximity to support their business and are not totally in favor of the walking mall.
    I think it would be interesting to start by having the downtown be a walking mall after 7pm Thursdays-Sunday. It could reopen to traffic at 4am to allow for deliveries and early commuters. This why you wouldn’t interrupt the flow of “rush hour” traffic and normal downtown business hours but allow for more atmosphere and outdoor dining in the evenings. You could even start by doing this in the summer months at first as a trial.
    I would also advocate the next time downtown is repaved to look at stamping all the roads like brick pavers. (This would never happen in these economic times and for good reason) I think it would reduce cut-through traffic and start to bring about the use of other natural routes for driving to parking areas for downtown and to define a walking mall.
    While slightly further out of the way High St is really a far better 81 bypass. Fewer lights and pedestrian traffic could only be a bonus for any bypass situation.

    • David Miller says:

      Unfortunately the turn at High cannot be adapted to Truck traffic, I’m relatively sure this option was explored and abandoned for that reason.

  9. Jason B says:

    I think that sometimes when people hear “downtown mall,” they immediately think it needs to happen all at once. Not so. It needs to be broken into a series of phases.

    Phase 1: study traffic patterns for diverting traffic around Court Square rather than through it.
    Phase 2: change traffic patterns
    Phase 3: brick the road from MRL to the old HCM
    Phase 4: and then back through Court Square and to Artful Dodger and Cally’s

    This would leave the parking decks easily available for customers. I don’t see many businesses in this section relying strictly on “drive-up” customers…as a matter of fact, I can’t think of any places off the top of my head in this section where you can park in front of the business for extended times.

  10. Ross says:

    The answer is a simple one. Turn 1/3 of the golf course into disc golf or frisbee golf. The layout is already there with boundaries, water hazards and the rough. It would be easy to convert and more attractive to younger people. Hey! Take advantage of JMU being here. They could have tournaments. The Public could have traveling teams. Just like the bicycle events, you could have “disc Golf” events. You could even have “Frisbee Golf Month”, just think of the possibilities it could have?
    Remember, this is about the golf course, not downtown.

    • Bazrik says:

      Pretty cool idea, and it would be great if it could bring it into the black and out of the red. I think the “downtown” discussion simply started because people were looking at how much money was getting focused on which areas, etc…

  11. Daniel says:

    Is the golf course really closed for walkers/joggers? That just seems silly. I’m a golfer, and a member of Old Trail in Crozet; the walkers/joggers there have never been an issue.

    I’ve played Heritage Oaks many times and it is a really nice course. I’d hate to see it closed or turned into a 9-hole course. I’m not a fan of the dog park idea, either. It just seems odd that the course is not making money.

    A small restaurant that served breakfast and lunch up to 4pm or 5pm would benefit the course for sure. It would serve as a gathering place for older, retired, golfers as well, and probably boost membership. Serious golfers do not drink beer on the course; that’s for chumps. However, there are a lot of chump golfers.

    • JW says:

      The golf course is off-limits to anyone not playing golf. They do enforce this quite heavily, except when it snows and I cross country ski on it.

      Personally I’m not opposed to having city facilities that cost money (i.e. don’t make a profit), however when they limit the activities that taxpayers can use them for I have an issue with it. The parks offer a range of many different activities and experiences for residents, the golf course only offers one and does so while taking a disproportionally large slice of the budget for the city. On a cost basis per resident, I feel I get much more out of the parks in town than the golf course ever offers me.

      • seth says:

        i’d be interested to have some coparative info on the course in bridgewater. i know that it’s probably not as nice as heritage oaks, but if the numbers were to show that more people play out there than do at HO, i’d be interested in hearing whether it might be possible to take a page from their book. i think a lot of the issue is that there’s a perception that golf/golf courses aren’t accessible to the general public (i think this is partly what motivated the blasphemous suggestions re a frisbee ‘golf’ course (full and meaningless disclosure, i think dolf is a stupid game for folks who don’t feel preppy enough to be seen on an actual golf course)). i feel like the city would do well to somehow market the course (and golf in general) as a place where everyone is welcome to get outside and get some excercise. not that it would necessarily need to be free, but i do think that bridgewater’s course is an interesting model.

        • Bazrik says:

          I play in Bridgewater all the time, and always remark on what they’re able to offer to the public for free. A perfect course? No. But an amazing value for everyone from the great golfer to those just learning the game and DO need that transition so that they don’t feel embarrassed learning on a “real” course. That is an issue, by the way, Seth – I’ve encountered plenty of golfers who JUSTIFY the fear a lot have about not “belonging” on a golf course – golfers who are elitist, impatient, etc. So I agree – let’s look into the Bridgewater model!

          …oh, and Seth – if you don’t want people being critical of golf, maybe ease up on your frisbee golf vendetta? :)

      • Renee says:

        “Personally I’m not opposed to having city facilities that cost money (i.e. don’t make a profit), however when they limit the activities that taxpayers can use them for I have an issue with it. ”

        This is how I feel and why I made the suggestions above. More people need to get enjoyment out of it for that kind of money.

  12. Ross says:

    Seth, you may want to do a little research on disc golf. It is increasingly popular and quite addicting. I know one gentleman in the Arlington area who travels on a regular basis. The first thing he does in a new town is hit the disc golf course.

    I think Bazrik’s assessment is correct, the projected image by most regular golfers tends to make the novice golfer feel like they don’t belong.

    • Bazrik says:

      Agreed Ross, good points. I do want to be clear – I know SOME golfers who put out that negative air. MOST golfers I know are laid back, very nice folks. An example – John Rogers, the pro at Lakeview and a personal friend – one of the best golfers and welcoming people I know.

      • seth says:

        thanks guys, i agree with what you’re saying and think that somehow the course has to become a fun and comfortable environment for everyone. and i do apologize for openly expressing my aversion to dolf (i’m sure that you are correct and that it will one day rise to the prominence of other great frisbee games like ultimate and competetive canine frisbee disc:)).

        • seth says:

          (in other news, i’m planning on starting a local hot dog skeet shooting league. interested parties, please feel free to get in touch).

  13. indigestion says:

    A solution to the golf course is the same solution with the old high school and old hospital – sell it to JMU. Uva has a golf course, VT has one, JMU’s gotta want one. Then the good stuff like First Tee could continue, and local play would be welcomed and encouraged, just like at Birdwood and The River Course at VT.

  14. David Miller says:

    Just have to poke the sleeping dragon, what does a Golf Course Clubhouse –to the tune of $469,666 do? Is that where people buy clubs?

    • Emmy says:

      The clubhouse has clubs, apparel, drinks, and not much else. I have no clue what they could be spending that money on. Unless that figure includes the First Tee House as well. But even if it does, that’s an insane figure. The maintenance figure would make sense if it included the Clubhouse.

  15. Jeremy Aldrich says:

    Why should the city run, at a loss, a municipal golf course when comparable golf courses can be found nearby for about the same greens fees? Wouldn’t it just be cheaper to give a $50 voucher to every golfer in the city?

    How is this different than running a municipal movie theater or a municipal bowling alley when private establishments of the same type are available?

    • Bazrik says:

      Well put.

    • Deb SF says:

      This point was extensively discussed a decade ago. It’s sometimes called the yellow-pages test; if you can find the business in the yellow pages, the government shouldn’t be producing the good/service. But it’s not perfect. No one, for example, argues about tennis courts and swimming pools. You can swim at the wellness center, or at Westover. You can play tennis at the country club, or at Purcell.

      That argument didn’t matter to the Eagle Council, the one that voted in 1999 to build it, signed the contract, cut down the trees, and borrowed the money. Neither did any other argument. Those 5 votes (Eagle, Green, Lance, Rogers, J. Byrd) gave us the golf course.

      The minutes for that meeting are here- including a summary of the comments of a bunch of people who spoke both in favor and against the course. The council vote is on page 8. The Park/Rec commission also voted 4-1-1 to endorse the course (vote is also on p. 8, Charlie was a member at the time).

      http://www.harrisonburgva.gov/fileadmin/user_upload/cityclerk/files/Minutes/1999/99apr27.pdf

      • Jeremy Aldrich says:

        From what I’ve read about the golf committee that has been put together, selling the course is off the table by order of the City Council. It also seems the people chosen are definitely going in with a desire to keep the course and spend more on it.

        It’s hard for me to imagine a scenario where the course breaks even, much less makes a profit. What is the public good of continuing this project?

        Personally, I would rather see the city lose $200k a year by turning it into a public park than lose twice that for a facility most of us can’t even enjoy.

        In regards to the “yellow pages” rebuttal, the city’s swimming and tennis courts provide good recreational experiences for a far reduced rate versus the local private businesses offering similar, but much more expensive and exclusive (usually membership-based) experiences. The golf course, on the other hand, offers an okay recreational experience for a similar rate versus numerous local golf courses most of which are open to the public – Lake View, Packsaddle, Sandy Bottom, Shenvalee, and Massanutten’s courses.

        The past is the past, but the future is ours to define. Deb, what would be your preference to get out of the current boondoggle?

        • Deb SF says:

          The yellow pages point was not a rebuttal- it was a verification/confirmation that the point you made about private alternatives competing with a public course was made many times 10 years ago and was discounted by the Eagle Council that voted to build it. Your point is not new; it even has a name. Google “yellow pages test”. Swimming and tennis are counterexamples to the YPT, but counterexamples justify/rebut nothing. The YPT is a label. That’s all.

          Boondoggle? My preference would be to tone down the rhetoric and to look logically and rationally at the alternatives to close the operating deficit. To use real estimates of costs and revenues. To analyze the potential effectiveness of alternative marketing proposals and management structures.

          And not to decide what should or should not be done before looking at the data and thinking through alternatives. That’s what happened 10 years ago – the Eagle council decided they wanted a golf course and framed the data to confirm their decision. Even during the April 27th 1999 meeting where the golf course got the green light from Parks/Rec and Council, people (particularly Ben Fordney, on data from the NGF that night) were pointing out that the data said something else. Look at the minutes. Bonnie Ryan summarized it nicely.

          Emotionally loaded language keeps us from reasoned conversation and real solutions. Some people have Irish Alzheimer’s about the golf course. All they remember is the grudges.

          • Ross says:

            Deb, Why hasn’t this already been done? Is this just for Election time stuff?
            Just to quote you here;

            “Boondoggle? My preference would be to tone down the rhetoric and to look logically and rationally at the alternatives to close the operating deficit. To use real estimates of costs and revenues. To analyze the potential effectiveness of alternative marketing proposals and management structures”.

        • DebSF says:

          Ross, the answer to your question is that Council member Dave Wiens is the first person on council with the temperament and guts to take this on. And the time is right.

          Why not earlier? Look at the timeline. Council gives green light for course in 99. Contract signed, demolition in Hillendale begins in March 2000. Money borrowed in May/June, 2000. To keep the costs down in the initial construction phase, lots of things were left out of the plan that would have made the course more appealing and attractive (i.e., paving the cart paths- some of those additional expenditures were made after the 2004 election). And it always takes a new course a few years to grow into itself. Course opened in Sept. 2001 and within a couple of years it was clear that the revenue projections were (as expected and argued through 99 and 00) overestimated. The operating deficit continues into the mid 2000’s. The comes the recession that begins at the end of 07, and economic crash in mid-08. Everything gets worse.

          So after he was elected in Nov. 08, Dave began a year of research, talking to dozens of people, wrote a white paper that analyzed/summarized what he found, circulated it to council and made it public in the DNR. Dave’s a Mennonite, and brings to the table an intellectual and spiritual grounding in conflict resolution. And this is surely one of the third rails of local politics.

          It’s ironic. SB member/CofC chair Tom Mendez wrote in a 10/25 DNR LTE that we need a “do-over” to “right a wrong” that occurred with the election of Dave (and Kai and Richard) to city council in 2008.

          http://www.dnronline.com/news_details.php?AID=51369&CHID=62

          And yet Dave’s the first one with the ability and motivation to take the initiative to finally address this. See what happens when you put a Mennonite on council?

  16. republitarian says:

    I don’t understand how it would have cost $2.5 million to get out of the contract in order to shut down the golf course, instead the city has, by most accounts, has lost $11 million and counting…looks like Joe Fitzgerald’s vote cost the taxpayers about $9 million…..and counting…

    but I don’t know if I have that right?

    • David Miller says:

      “I don’t understand how it would have cost $2.5 million to get out of the contract”

      You summed yourself up nicely. Have you followed the link and read the HISTORICAL RECORD of what happened or just combining memories of happenstance together?

    • JGFitzgerald says:

      OK, that’s the weirdest take on the golf course numbers I’ve heard yet. But since we were already in hock for $18 million before I took office ten years ago, my vote must have netted us $9M? Keep the change.

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