Annual losses of $250,000 prompted a meeting with a consultant, who offered options that include selling properties, investing in their improvement, or a combination of the two.
The Casper (Wyo.) City Council is entertaining the option of consolidating golf course operations in light of annual losses of $250,000 a year, the Casper Journal reported.
Consultant Jim Keegan of Golf Convergence recommended the city sell part of the Casper Municipal Golf Course’s land and use the funds to transform the Three Crowns Golf Club in Casper—a Robert Trent Jones, Jr.-designed championship course located on a remediated Amoco Oil refinery along the North Platte River—to public use with the addition of a short nine-hole course, the Journal reported. The Three Crowns operation is currently overseen by the Amoco Reuse Joint Powers Board, formed by the Natrona County Commissioners and the Casper City Council in 1998.
“We were charged just with the feasibility to sell the eight acres, and the answer was ‘yes,’ we concluded,” Keegan told the council. “But in looking for how do we get you profitable—which was sort of beyond the scope of one we always delve into—it led to discussions on the course’s closure. There’s many conversations to be had to say ‘Where’s the land, is it available, how can it work?’ But all we did is raise the question, and created a path for you to follow to find the answers.”
Keegan presented four options for the Municipal Course:
- Close and/or sell the whole golf course, at a market price of $5 to $8 million
- Sell eight acres and invest in improving the course
- Sell the eight acres and switch to Three Crowns
- Invest in the current course
Keegan added that his perspective was that of a private owner and that a local government might have a different approach, such as an interest in providing recreational opportunities for its citizens, the Journal reported.
“Your position is probably no subsidy, certainly not a quarter of a million a year ad infinitum to put into a budget. That would be my guess, if you’re like most councils I know around the country,” Keegan said. “Course management and staff are saying we need the resources to be able to provide a good experience to our patrons, we need capital, we need to pay salaries to hire the best labor [and] bring in the concessionaires.”
The Municipal Course is in need of a new sprinkler system and maintenance building, which would cost approximately $2.4 million. Additionally, the clubhouse needs upgrading and the driving range needs to provide improved protection against the risk of someone getting hit with a golf ball, the Journal reported.
The sale of the eight acres would yield $1.7 million, which Keegan noted would leave a shortfall of $600,000 after adding the sprinkler system and maintenance building. The council took Keegan’s financial projections under advisement, and recognized that the role of government is to provide recreation to its citizens, the Journal reported.
“If you said let’s close the golf course, the last round is likely not to be played until five years from now,” Keegan explained. “There would be a transition of selling the eight acres, taking the proceeds and starting to invest in Three Crowns and building an alternative facility—making it kinder and gentler while keeping the 18-hole [municipal] operation and running it as efficiently as possible, knowing you’re going to lose $100,000 to $150,000 a year.
“But at least [this approach would] provide a service to people in a transition, until you can create a product and experience at the right price point at Three Crowns,” Keegan said.
Keegan also presented results of research that provided a profile of the average golfer in the Casper area: 37.9 years old; average household income of $101,425; 5.2 courses played per year; willing to drive 21 miles to play a championship course, and a average score of 86. He listed the typical golfer’s criteria for deciding where to play as “conditions, surface and price.”