One year after the Phoenix City Council approved a plan to balance the city’s golf fund the outlook is positive, but there is still a ways to go.
The city-owned golf courses haven’t been making money for years and the debt has reached $17 million. In March of 2013 the council approved a plan that would fund the courses through the city’s Phoenix Parks and Preserve Initiative Program (3PI). The plan would keep the courses open, retire debt, reduce the annual operating deficit, develop deed restrictions and develop a plan to fund future operating deficits.
Revenues this year are up 3 percent from last year. Last year the courses lost $2.5 million, this year they lost $1.1 million, and next year the courses are projected to only lose $600,000.
“Obviously we have gotten into a bad situation, but many of us know the entire golf business has struggled. The entire industry has had some challenges, so I really tip my cap to you,” Councilman Bill Gates said to city staff during a meeting on Tuesday, April 22. “You save money and we’re putting a better product out there. That’s what I’m hearing.”
The city has worked with a private company to do a feasibility study on the courses and their recommendations are slowly being put into place. Some of the recommendations included partnering with Arizona State University to improve Papago Golf Course and closing Palo Verde.
“I was impressed with what they had to say and their thoughts,” said Councilman Jim Waring. “They said (Palo Verde) is not viable. It pains me to lose money like we’ve been losing money on golf operations for the past few years, but it would pain me even more to lose on a course they say can’t possibly make money. That’s a source of frustration, but overall I thought it was a great presentation.”
During the City Council policy session on April 22 council members asked city staff to work on a plan for the future to pay back the 3PI funds once the golf courses start making money.
“What that does is it continues to put everybody on notice that we need to keep working toward a resolution,” City Councilman Sal DiCiccio said.
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