City golf courses on the way to making money for Tucson

City golf courses on the way to making money for Tucson

TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - A new report, scheduled to be debated by the Tucson City Council next week, shows the golf utility is making money for the first time in nearly five years.

The power point presentation shows the utility show an operating income of $251,369.

Still, the golf enterprise is paying off an $8 million debt incurred to make improvements on the golf courses nearly a decade ago.

Most of that debt was paid last year when the city of Tucson sold some golf property, but there's still $1.6 million remaining.

By 2018, the golf enterprise is estimated to make an operating profit of $569,960. Some believe that is cause to celebrate and talk of closures should ease, but others believe there are dark clouds on the horizon.

"The golf utility is not going to survive in its present form," said Ward VI City Council Member Steve Kozachik. "It's got a $25 million budget hole."

That $25 million is infrastructure and maintenance needs over the next 15 years.

There have been discussions whether to close one or two courses, including El Rio and/or Silverbell on the west side.

Another idea is to make them 9-hole courses and sell some of the property for development.

Others have been to make the courses into city parks but that would likely increase the debt because they would not generate income to offset maintenance costs.

"Nothing is off the table," said Kozachik. "It's a conversation we need to have."

But it's a discussion which has been delayed several times since last summer.

If the council finally gets around to discussing its options, the future of public golf will likely become clearer.

Steve Yandle, a law professor, who came to Tucson from Chicago to play golf and visit family, says city courses are vital.

"Golf is, in most instances expensive," he said. "That's why maintaining quality public courses at a reasonable rate is important to maintaining the future of golf."

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