Editor’s note: In the July 13 Ahwatukee Foothills News, resident Jim Jochim challenged fellow Ahwatukee residents to think outside the box to help save The Lakes Golf Course by coming up with “Green Light Ideas” on the Opinion page. Here’s what they had to say:
Following are my suggestions for retaining The Lakes Golf Course:
1. If it has not been completed, have a financial analysis of the golf operations performed and create a projected operating budget for The Lakes. It is necessary to identify the major costs associated with The Lakes and determine how they can be reduced to a level where The Lakes can achieve financial stability as a local golf course.
2. Contact the USGA to see what support they may provide. They do provide a consulting service for golf management and could be helpful in evaluating the financial viability of The Lakes. (http://www.usga.org/Course-Care/Course-Consulting-Service/Course-Consulting-Service/).
3. Contact SRP regarding the cost of the water required for The Lakes. This is the largest single expense items facing any golf course in Arizona. If SRP could find a way to significantly reduce or control this expense for The Lakes, perhaps this would help make it financially viable.
4. Contact the Professional Golfers’ Association Southwest Section for their input on how to make The Lakes financially viable.
5. Contact a university which offers a PGA Golf Management Program degree to determine if they would be interested in working on revitalizing The Lakes Golf Course as either a student project or as part of their degree program. Unfortunately, Arizona State University discontinued their PGA Golf Management Program in May 2011 due to budget cuts. Other universities offering a golf-management program in the Southwest are the University of Nevada-Las Vegas, New Mexico State University in Las Cruces, and University of Colorado-Colorado Springs.
Outside the city of Tucson, just off Ina Road is a beautiful desert park called Tohono Chul. Over 200 desert plant species showcase the beauty of the Sonoran Desert in this low water use community gem. Visitors are drawn from all over the country to admire the unique plant life and see the desert birds and butterflies that thrive in the park. The nearby community cherishes this garden for its lovely scenery and quiet benches that offer escape from the city. Art classes are held for children to learn to see and appreciate nature, musicians give concerts and artists add their interpretations of the desert culture through changing exhibits. A small cafe offers refreshments and helps generate income.
Could this vision be shared in Ahwatukee? A project like this could benefit all of us, not just golfers or developers. And the low water use gardens could offer inspiration for homeowners interested in learning to garden with native plants and even to harvest rainwater.
Perhaps funding could be found from the ASU School of Sustainability, SRP, or the city of Phoenix. Perhaps a private party could help get the project off the ground. Perhaps a nonprofit could be formed to make such a dream come true.
Jim Jochim has invited us to think outside the box to save The Lakes Golf Course, offering two alternative solutions. While there is merit to both of them, I have to disagree with his unstated, underlying premise that the onus is on US to solve the problem.
When Wilson Gee bought this course, he must have known that it had a rich history as one of the premier short courses in this or any other state. It was among the first course designs by Gary Panks, who went on to design the Legacy, Falcon Dunes, Whirlwind, Fire Rock and a multitude of brilliant course layouts here and around the world. In the few years before Gee’s purchase, The Lakes had suffered from deteriorating management and lost its luster, but it was still an ideal place for locals to hone their short game.
Mr. Gee now wants to not only recoup his investment, but to make a hefty profit. Nothing wrong with that, it’s business. But it’s up to HIM to do so, within the parameters of the rules and regulations our community had imposed on the property at the outset. If there is merit in the idea of partnering with Arizona State University (or some other such institution), let Mr. Gee explore that opportunity. If it makes sense to advertise the course nationally, he is welcome to foot that bill, also.
Selling to Pulte for a housing development is about the absolute worst possible solution Mr. Gee could have come up with, and our property values are being held hostage for that decision. That’s the box we need to think outside of, before we end up with more streets, sewers and traffic congestion than the infrastructure can support. They are threatening the future of our community, and asking us to vote against our own interests. Ahwatukee is supposed to mean “house of our dreams;” don’t let anyone turn it into a nightmare.
Ken and Jeri Reed