Report says golf’s decline is costly for Phoenix

Sep 5 2012 - 12:27pm

PHOENIX -- Phoenix's golf program is stuck in a virtual sand trap with its six golf courses having accumulated a $14.8 million deficit, according to a new report.

The Arizona Republic reports that the recent city report blamed the deficit on the diminishing popularity of golf nationwide and the slowing economy.

The National Golf Foundation reported a decline in the average number of rounds played in Phoenix between 1990 and 2010. The drop occurred at the same time the number of golf courses increased in Maricopa County during that period from 153 to 214.

In effect, the city -- and nation -- have an oversupply of golf courses but not enough demand, according to National Golf Foundation studies.

The City Council in 1981 set up "Phoenix Golf" to operate as a revenue-sustained enterprise without support from the city's general fund.

Under Phoenix Golf, the city owns Encanto, Maryvale, Papago, Palo Verde, Cave Creek and Aguila golf courses, located in various areas of the city.

Since 1999, Phoenix has had to cover the cost of operating and maintaining the courses with money from the city's general fund -- the taxpayer-supported fund that covers the bulk of the city's costs such as employee salaries and services such as trash pickup.

"From a long-term perspective, we have to pay back the general fund," said Phoenix's finance chief Jeff DeWitt. "We need to come up with a solution."

The city is working on a plan for the golf program to repay the city that will determine whether the city continues operating a few, all or none of its golf courses.

"It comes down to a policy question," said Phoenix Budget and Research Director Mario Paniagua. "Do we look at treating golf more like some of the other parks and recreation programs?"

To swim and play softball, users pay fees, which don't cover the cost of operating and maintaining the pools and softball fields. The city subsidizes those facilities and operations.

An 11-member ad hoc committee under the Parks and Recreation Board is tasked with answering whether the city should turn golf into one of those programs.

In the coming weeks, the committee will host a series of public meetings at which officials hope golfers and residents will offer ideas to close the deficit or at least curtail it.


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