The model the city of Phoenix used to turn over management of the Papago Golf Course to Arizona State University could work for any course if the owner is willing, said city Councilman Sal DiCiccio.
DiCiccio has been working with Arizona State University on the Papago deal for years and said he’s proud of what they’ve accomplished.
“You have to have a seller willing to do it,” DiCiccio said. “Let’s say in the best case scenario the golf course owner is right that he cannot keep the course open as a golf course. Well, then you find a partner to help operate the golf course and take the monthly expenses off your books. The problem with this seller (of the Ahwatukee Lakes Golf Course) is that they see multi-millions of dollars in their eyes and that’s what they want from the property when in fact it’s not worth that much. It works for us with Papago because we are willing to make a certain amount of money, but now we don’t have any expenses. It’s all profit after that.”
Under the agreement, which was recently approved by the City Council, ASU would take over management of the course and would build a new clubhouse on the land. Prices will remain the same and the course will remain a golf course. ASU, after the clubhouse is finished, will pay the city $200,000 a year or will split the proceeds from the clubhouse and operations, whichever is greater.
“Arizona State University is pleased to be entering into a partnership with the city of Phoenix in regard to Papago Golf Course,” said Angela Creedon, spokesperson for ASU, in a statement. “It’s a win-win situation for the university, its student-athletics and area golf enthusiasts… What the public will notice and benefit from are enhanced amenities. ASU will make improvements to the course and construct a new clubhouse within three years. The university will use Papago Golf Course as its main golf facility for its women’s and men’s NCAA golf teams. It also plans to use the course for up to two NCAA golf tournaments a year, a fundraising event, and one Pac-12 men’s and women’s tournament.”
DiCiccio said he projects the city will make more than $200,000 a year off Papago Golf Course once the new clubhouse is built. He said ASU is expected to put around $5 million into the new clubhouse.
“It’s a bigger issue than just turning over Papago Park to Arizona State,” DiCiccio said. “It sets in place a model for all the golf courses which have been struggling within the city of Phoenix to find users that can use them. The golf course operation created about $17 million in debt for the city of Phoenix. What kind of model can we have moving forward? These, what people see as assets, are actually financial drain for the city long term. The idea is now to create a model that allows us to start reducing the debt and moving some of these under-producing properties off our books, but still preserving them as a golf course.”
DiCiccio said the city is also looking into partnering with Grand Canyon University to take over the Maryvale Golf Course.
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