The Fred Enke Golf Course is $7.5 million in debt and the city recommended commencing the process of shutting down the course to turn it into a “natural passive park,” while soliciting bids from outside private management companies. El Rio Golf Course faces a similar fate, but cannot be completely closed because it has six years remaining on its contract with First Tee.
The Tucson, Ariz., city manager’s office is recommending soliciting bids from outside private management companies for Fred Enke Golf Course, to see if any have better ideas about how to revive the golf program, which is $7.5 million in debt, the Arizona Daily Star reported.
The recommendation includes a request to immediately begin the process of shutting down the course and turning it into a “natural passive park,” the Daily Star reported.
Nearby El Rio Golf Course is seeing a similar fate. The manager’s office wants to start drafting a plan to scale it back into a combination park and golf course. El Rio cannot be completely shut down, however, because the city has six years remaining on a contract with the First Tee youth golf program.
The recommendation also calls for selling off any other marketable parcels of excess golf property and transferring land set aside for a golf course from the golf program to the city general fund, where it can eventually be sold to pay off golf’s $3.6 million in Certifications of Participation to build golf facilities, the Daily Star reported.
Since the Enke course received a federal grant when it opened in 1983, the city has to get permission from the National Park Service before closing it, which takes a minimum of six months. The course would remain open during that time and after it closed, the city would still run the driving and practice facility.
Though the city will start shutting down Fred Enke with council approval on Tuesday, Finance Director Kelly Gottschalk said the city’s first priority is to keep the courses open and running profitably, the Daily Star reported.
“We owe it to ourselves to see if these courses can work it out,” Gottschalk said. “We are just going down two separate paths and see at the end which one makes the most sense.”
She said the problem is primarily with the nearly $1 million in improvements the course requires. Problems with the city’s golf operations began in 2005, when Tucson made millions of dollars in improvements to its courses, coinciding with the recession, the Daily Star reported.
“For far too many years, the greens committee and the golf administrators were hoping and praying the situation would resolve itself,” Councilwoman Regina Romero said. “But hoping and praying and not doing anything to change the financial picture of golf is not going to work anymore.”
Councilman Paul Cunningham said he believes that Fred Enke should be given some more time to prove it can support itself, the Daily Star reported.
“I think it’s important we give Fred Enke the opportunity to pay its own way,” Cunningham said. “If it does, it should be left open.”