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In the rough: Tucson weighing future of city-owned golf courses

City memo: Tucson golf courses hurting each other
Posted at 6:34 PM, Aug 15, 2017
and last updated 2017-08-15 21:34:51-04

Tee times are easy to come by in Tucson but according to a recent memo from City Manager Michael Ortega to city council members that is becoming a problem.

The golf market in Tucson may be oversaturated and the city’s five courses are stealing business from each other which makes it increasingly unlikely Tucson Golf will ever be able to afford needed repairs and upgrades according to the memo sent August 4.

“Should the City of Tucson run five golf courses? Probably not,” said Councilman Steve Kozachik, whose ward includes Randolph Park and its two courses. “Should we run some? Probably so because they have a good tourism impact to the area as well. So we have to look at more than simply the profit and loss on each individual course.”

The courses need at least $25 million dollars in upgrades and other work over 15 years, not including regular maintenance costs, according to city research. But the memo says the city courses will likely never be able to generate that money because while the amount of money made per round of golf has increased since 2014, decreasing patronage in a competitive market makes generating the needed revenue increasingly difficult. It says courses could continue to operate into the future but their quality would steadily decline.

The memo says there are 40 golf courses in the Tucson metro area and many were built during the 1980’s and 90’s.

Now city council members must decide what to do.

The memo suggests shrinking some courses and turning the extra space into a park. Other listed options include redesigning courses could create enough space on the edges of the course that it could be sold to developers. However selling to developers may be the most difficult path.

Fred Enke Golf Course on the east side and Silverbell Golf Course on the west side were constructed using federal money from the Land Water Conservation Funds. The money carries the stipulation the land must remain a place for outdoor recreation. The memo also outlined an option where the city petitions the National Park Service for permission to sell the newly created space and then create an outdoor recreation of equal or greater area somewhere else.  

Reducing the number of holes from 36 to 27 at Randolph Park would create space to allow development along Broadway is a possibility outlined the document but a major redesign or alignment would be challenging because of a 1925 Mayor and Council Resolution that the land be “forever dedicated and as for a municipal golf course and public park” also the Dell Urich course is part of a flood control plan that is designed to reduce the flood plain downstream of the Arroyo Chico Wash.

Councilmember Karin Uhlich (Ward 3) stressed the city is still simply exploring options, “It is not only whether or not to continue to have golf at all these locations but ‘what are the other alternatives?’ and the community needs to know that as well.”

The city is now conducting public meetings to gather input about what to do about its courses.