Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Summary of the 170-page National Golf Foundation Study of Community Center Golf and Restaurant Operations. Part 2.

This is the second part of a 2-part article. Part 1 was published yesterday.

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Summary Conclusion

“This facility is aging and has seen declines in activity and is now operating at a deficit, up to $2.1 million+. The loss on operations is a result of several influences…a recent recession, increasing competition, declining physical condition, and declining interest in golf.”

“The local golf market has changed dramatically in the last decade and as we look to the future of golf in Oro Valley, there is genuine concern that the full 45-hole allotment may not be a good match for the current state of golf demand. The cost to properly maintain a complement of 45 holes is large and growing. The National Golf Study (NGF) review in 2017 shows that the cost to maintain El Con Golf is much higher than any standard, mostly a result of high utilities expense that is caused, in part, by an antiquated irrigation system.”

“The current financial condition [of El Con Golf] is worse than most public sector golf operations in the U.S. where 67% of municipal golf course operations are able to cover on-site expenses.

“Given this and the change in demand, the NGF sees a 27-hole facility at El Con Golf and a modified par-3 golf course (possibly 12 holes) at Pusch Ridge as a much better option for Oro Valley to provide a more sustainable golf facility for the longer term going forward.”

Given the above noted findings, it is clear that the Town will not be able to continue the operation “as-is” and changes will be required.

The most important and actionable recommendations made by the National Golf Foundation are listed below, noted in priority order:

1. Improve the physical condition of El Con Golf, including clubhouse enhancements.
2. Take action to reduce the amount of irrigated turf on all golf courses.
3. Upgrade the irrigation system to include new controls and in-ground piping.
4. Reduce to 27 holes at El Con Golf, with three 9-hole courses of equal quality and appeal.
5. Lease out (or concession) the Food & Beverage operation to a third party.
6. Implement the plan to renovate Pusch Ridge into a “Dirty Dozen” concept.
7. Enhance marketing and implement new activities that appeal to less traditional golfer segments, especially female golfers.

Golfers within a 10 mile radius
In its 2009 publication, “The Future of Public Golf in America,” the National Golf Foundation hypothesized that the best predictor of a public golf course’s success was the number of golfers per 18 holes within a 10-mile radius, with 4,000 identified as the key number for projected financial stability. The NGF has estimated that there are only about 1,400 golfers per 18-hole course in the Oro Valley Community Center market, thus lowering chances for successful golf operations.

Site Negatives
The location of both facilities suggests to the public that the facilities may be private. The location within a large residential community conveys a private club operation. The Pusch Ridge course proximity to the Hilton Resort leads most to believe the course is only available for use by hotel guests.

The configuration of the property is wide and physically diverse, leading to challenges in managing the full 36-hole property. There are four separate parcels separated by major roadways and require golf cart crossings at several points. Thus it will always require a larger-than-standard operating staff.

It is expected that there will always be a higher-than-standard maintenance expense at El Con Golf and Pusch Ridge, even if the total irrigated acreage can be reduced.

Numerous changes to land ownership, development plans, and golf corridors contributed to the awkward routing of the courses. In several locations, the distance between holes is significant and it is often difficult for players to know where to go next. Further, this awkward routing mandates cart use and contributes to extra management and maintenance challenges.

Irrigation remains the greatest area of maintenance concern and has shown considerable decline since the original development. The aging system is a mismatch of controls, heads, and inefficient pipe sizes that have been patched together over the years…and is costing the Town considerably in terms of inefficient irrigation.

The conclusion of the team is that a major investment in irrigation replacement must be made regardless of how the courses are to be reconfigured.

Closure of all 36 holes of golf
Probable cost is approximately $3 million and includes removing managed turf areas, revegetation of desert varieties, reshaping to allow for natural surface drainage, applying a hydroseed mix of native desert seed and a bonding agent that will help prevent erosion and allow the seeds to germinate. Twenty percent of the cost ($600,000) would be for design and engineering.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Summary of the 170-page National Golf Foundation Study of Community Center Golf and Restaurant Operations. Part 1.

On July 12, the Oro Valley Town Council met in special session to review and discuss a consultants report of their analysis of selected usage alternatives regarding the Oro Valley golf courses and restaurant facility. You can watch this discussion.

According to a statement by Mayor Hiremath at the special meeting, this investment in these golf courses  has lost $1.1 million in two years, but "is trending upward." This loss is after consideration of the increased sales tax we now pay to subsidize it.

We present a summary of the consultant's report in this first of a 2-part offering, We will post Part 2 tomorrow. These postings are submitted as a summary only without comment or opinion.  An opinion piece will be published on Wednesday.

The study is a limited-scope study, limited to analysis of specific options as noted in "Basic Options" later in this posting. Multiple paragraphs in the report indicate that the consultants are recommending "Option B."

Option A: 36 holes…..$5,115,775 investment…..21.2 acres alternate use…..20% savings
This includes two 18-hole courses, a reconfiguration with six new greens, one expanded green, and new paths.

Option B: 27 holes…..$4,639,115 investment…..32 acres alternate use*…..35% savings
A reconfiguration of the Conquistador and Canada Courses, retaining three 9-hole loops. This includes three new greens and one expanded green and new paths.

Option C: 18 holes…..$4,200,795 investment…..83.2 acres alternate use*…..45% savings
An 18-hole reconfiguration of the Conquistador and Canada Courses, retaining one 9-hole regulation length course. The reconfiguration requires one new green and new paths. Turf reduction is significant by reconfiguring several holes and making some of the parcels available for non-golf uses. These include 83 acres of Town-owned land and 29 acres that would revert to HOA-owned.

Pusch Ridge: 12 holes…..$3,013,120 investment…..14.9 acres alternate use…..70% savings
Three options: 1. Close the facility and repurpose the land into non-golf uses. 2. Renovate the facility bringing all golf features and areas back to an acceptable condition. 3. Transform the facility into a 12-hole, 3-par course to be called “The Dirty Dozen”. This reduces maintained turf to 11.9 acres and frees up 15 acres for potential repurposing. Cost: $3 million.

*Town owned property only. Does not include HOA-owned parcels.

The 36-hole option is still providing too much golf and higher maintenance costs. The 18-hole option will likely chase away all but the most die-hard members with private carts, resulting in revenue that is much lower than the savings achieved from lowered maintenance expenses.

Pusch Ridge Problems
Low activity, low revenue, difficult layout, lack of walkability, declining maintenance, low interest in 9-hole golf.

Even with modest rounds of activity (7,500) this course could cover all its expenses. “If the Town and Troon were to significantly enhance the marketing and promotion of the facility, and gain full buy-in from the adjacent resort (possibly through pre-purchase of rounds), the Dirty Dozen course could add as much as $112,000 in profit to the system.”

“It is always an option for public-sector owners of golf facilities to close or reduce golf courses and consider alternate uses of golf course property.”

Basic Options to be considered

1. Outright closure of one or both Town golf facilities. Further study on this is recommended as property values, tax base, and resort relations have to be considered.

2. Repurpose portions of golf course property that may become available due to proposed changes in size and space of golf facilities. Remove 32 acres at El Con Golf and 15 acres at Pusch Ridge Golf. Use this as natural space, passive recreation, intense recreation, or repurposing/ development.

3. Continue “as-is” with no major changes but only repairs and minor improvements. However, the result will be ever larger losses on operations in the coming years as expense inflation out-paces revenue increases.

4. Completion of golf course renovation resulting in retention of 36 holes (Option A)

5. Renovation resulting in 27 holes (Option B)

6. Renovation resulting in 18 holes at El Con Golf and Tennis (Option C)

Converting the land for other uses

Naturalized Open Space
Cost is relatively low and renders the land back to its familiar desert terrain and landscape.

Passive Recreation
More costs due to development of trails, ADA access, restrooms, security, lighting, etc.

Intense Recreation Uses
This would involve the highest cost to the Town due to building new recreation structures, infrastructure, parking, etc., involving not only upfront costs, but also ongoing maintenance costs.

Development Uses
Only prudent for the Town if a lease or sale of certain lands could be structured to provide the Town with a revenue source.

Financial Projections
All of the options will improve the economic position of El Con Golf, largely through reduced maintenance expenses (fewer maintained acres) and by shifting Food and Beverage (F&B) operations to a third-party vendor. Even with these recommendations, they still expect financial challenges for the next five years.

Continued operation with rounds at or near current levels will not lead to profitability and severe losses will continue but will become more manageable under any of the renovation options presented.

If the Town reduces maintained acreage, provides a new and modern irrigation system, and a modernized clubhouse, the facility would see improvement in economic performance regardless of the number of holes.

The 27-hole option (Option B) will most likely result in the strongest net performance for the Town due to retaining a strong share of members, comparable amount of daily fee play, and flexibility to allow for “member blocks” of tee times.

If the club is upgraded and reduced to 27 holes, the net income will improve because the revenue drivers will still be present but the maintenance expense with only 27 holes would help close the gap on operations expenses, although they still expect a loss on operations.

If they contract a third-party vendor to operate and absorb the risk of F&B, the economic performance should improve with immediate elimination of the large loss on F&B operations.
Part 2 of this article will be published tomorrow.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Not Quite Ready: Lambert Lane Construction Continues

"Update on road construction at Lambert Lane & La Cañada Drive

Oro Valley, Arizona (July 17, 2017) – Although Lambert Lane re-opened to drivers on June 30, there is still a tremendous amount of work being performed at the Lambert & La Cañada intersection, and motorists should continue to exercise caution and vigilance when driving through this area. Once completed, this section of Lambert Lane, west to Hacienda Hermosa, will be four lanes wide with a left-turn lane and a right-turn lane in each direction, plus a bus pullout on southbound La Cañada and another pullout on eastbound Lambert. The project is slated for completion later this year.


So far, crews have performed critical infrastructure work, including adjustment and installation of utilities, and grading and moving more than 60,000 cubic yards of soil to widen the roadway and reduce the height of the hill to improve safety and visibility. Extensive slope stabilization work has been performed on both sides of the streets via construction of soil nail walls. New traffic signals have been installed, and old ones have been removed. Some of the paving work has been completed, and work has begun on erosion control materials and stormwater control measures, with the installation of storm drain pipe and catch basins.


In the coming months, as crews wrap up the final stages of road paving and curb installation, new striping and signage will follow. They’ll also complete some of the major safety features, such as the installation of a concrete sidewalk on the north side of Lambert, and the construction of a 10-foot-wide, multi-use path on the south side of the road. Stormwater efforts will continue, with the placement of a storm channel on the north side of Lambert. Residents and motorists will also notice some aesthetic enhancements, as architectural treatments are applied to the soil nail walls, and decorative rock and metal cacti are installed throughout the project. Lastly, native vegetation will be replanted (along with the installation of new irrigation lines).


There are three great ways to learn more about this project and stay informed about future updates: · Check out the project photo album on Facebook. (You do not need to have a Facebook account to view the pictures).


The Town of Oro Valley is grateful for the community’s patience and safe driving during this time. Please be mindful of ongoing work in the area and traffic control measures such as barricades and reduced speeds. The Town will issue “Traffic Alerts” when significant lane restrictions will be put into place, impacting your daily drive.

Two such alerts include the following (dates subject to weather): ·

  •  7/24/17—7/28/17: Lane restrictions on northbound and southbound La Cañada at Lambert for median curb removal, grading, new curb construction and backfill.
  •  8/4/17—8/7/17: Severe lane restrictions in all directions for median grading and paving.


The Lambert Lane Phase II Project was launched to improve safety and visibility along Lambert, while widening the roadway to accommodate additional travel lanes, multi-modal enhancements, curbs and landscaping. The work is being performed by Granite Construction, Inc., and the project is funded by the Pima Association of Governments."

(Source: Town Of Oro Valley Press Release)

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Deadline Tomorrow For Submitting Pro and Con Property Tax Arguments

The Town Of Oro Valley is proposing a secondary property for your approval on this November's election ballot. The funds from this tax are supposed to be used to pay for even more ballfields in Naranja Park, as we have previously posted.

The election pamphlet that you will receive will explain the tax. In doing so, the pamphlet will include arguments for and against the bond offering. The deadline for submitting those arguments is tomorrow.

Anyone may submit an argument for publication. However, as you will  note further, it will cost you a whopping $250 to do so.

However, LOVE welcomes all views. So you are welcome to send us a Guest View and, assuming it meets our guidelines (see right panel) we will publish it for free.

The following is the Town Of Oro Valley press release that presents further detail:
"Deadline is Friday, July 21, to submit arguments “for” or “against” Naranja Park bond question 
 Oro Valley, Arizona (July 17, 2017) – As a reminder, any persons wishing to submit an argument “for” or “against” the Naranja Park bond question must do so by 5 p.m. this Friday, July 21, 2017. Arguments will be included in the informational voter pamphlet that is prepared and mailed to each household with a registered voter not less than 35 days before the date of the election. The bond question will appear on the November 7, 2017 ballot.

Arguments must meet the following requirements in order to be accepted for publication:

  • Argument shall not exceed 300 words in length. 
  • Argument shall contain a sworn statement of each person sponsoring it. 
  • Argument shall include the residence or post office address and telephone number of each person signing the argument. 
  • Argument shall be submitted to the Oro Valley Town Clerk in an electronic format, preferably Microsoft Word.
  • Argument shall include a payment of $250 (as allowed by Arizona state law). 
  • As required by law, all information—including the $250 fee—must be received by the Oro Valley Town Clerk by 5 p.m. on Friday, July 21, 2017.

For complete details on submitting an argument, you may read the official Public Notice from the Clerk’s Office. Click or copy/paste this URL into your browser: https://www.orovalleyaz.gov/sites/default/files/media/docs/2017/instructions-submitting-arguments-or-against.pdf

To learn more about the Naranja Park Bond Project, please review the May 4, 2017 press release and the project overview document at the links provided below.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

The Tradition Continues: Oro Valley Kids Concert Series

OV launches new Oro Valley Kids Concert Series for 2017-18

Oro Valley, Arizona (July 12, 2017) – The Town of Oro Valley, in partnership with the Music and Dance Academy, is proud to announce the launch of the new Oro Valley Kids Concert Series, which provides an intimate, interactive experience for young children and their families where they can explore the sights, sounds and workings of instruments and dance. These free concerts will be held on the first Saturday of each month, from August 2017 through May 2018.

View the entire 2017-18 lineup, including location information, by clicking here or pasting this URL into your browser: https://www.orovalleyaz.gov/business/calendar/oro-valley-kids-concert-series.

“The Music and Dance Academy is celebrating more than 20 years in Oro Valley,” said Economic Development Manager Amanda Jacobs. “It was a natural fit to partner with them to offer this quality series and promote the Town’s arts, culture and business retention efforts.”

Mark your calendars now for the August and September concerts, and visit us online for the full schedule!

Saturday, August 5, 2017 at 10 a.m.
Location: Music & Dance Academy, 7954 N. Oracle Road
Explore the Music & Dance Academy Dance and interact with musical instruments at the Music and Dance Academy!

Saturday, September 2, 2017 at 10 a.m.
Location: Oro Valley Council Chambers, 11000 N. La Cañada Drive
The Adventures of Victoria the Violin Once upon a time, there were several instruments living peacefully in the Land of Notes. Then, along came a new instrument, Victoria the Violin. She was looking for adventure! Come join Victoria as she meets all sorts of new instrument friends!

Thank you to our community partners: Dr. JAW Orthodontists, Greater Oro Valley Chamber of Commerce, McDonald’s (1st/Oracle) and Smashburger.

Since 2011, the Town of Oro Valley has offered free concerts to residents and visitors of all ages, and it will continue to do so through its other monthly concert series offerings, including the Steam Pump Ranch Concert Series, Community Center Concert Series and Oro Valley Marketplace Concert Series. Learn more about the Town’s arts and culture offerings at www.orovalleyaz.gov.

Ed Note: These concerts were previously sponsored by deceased Oro Valley resident Bill Adler. It is nice to see the others have stepped into the breach to continue this concert series.
Source: Oro Valley press release

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Guest View: Diane Peters ~ Oro Valley Town Council repeatedly gets Hoodwinked by “The Deal Makers.” Part 2.

This posting is Part 2 of our 2-part discussion of "The Deal Makers." We published Part 1 yesterday.
Next hoodwinking scheduled for November 2017
Our Town Councils over the past 10 years have repeatedly shown that they are easily fooled and manipulated by “deal makers” and as a result, they have not been good stewards of your taxpayer dollars.


2006: Oro Valley Marketplace was grossly oversold to the Town and the taxpayers as an upscale shopping experience. In return for sharing $23.2 million dollars in tax revenues with Vestar, we were promised a unique upscale mall with signature shops and boutiques. What did we get? A generic strip mall and discount big box stores.

2014: The Community Center and Golf Course deal was grossly oversold to the taxpayers and as a result, the Mayor and Council’s often touted 5-year plan to turn a profit has now become a 6-year plan. This “great deal” has already cost us taxpayers over $6 million dollars…and counting.

2015: Vestar convinces the Town Council to allow the addition of illuminated signs on the backside of the buildings at OVM, insisting that this would be the catalyst that would spark retail interest. Once again, the expected results were not achieved. (Only two new businesses have opened in the past two years, 22 empty storefronts still remain along with about a half dozen undeveloped dirt lots).

A 47% percent vacancy rate
Also of note is that, according to Vestar’s Oro Valley Marketplace website, there are currently only 25 businesses in operation despite being just three months away from the 9-year anniversary of the mall’s opening (October 2008). That’s 25 open businesses and 22 empty storefronts -- in other words, nearly half of the retail space remains vacant. In fact, there are two buildings that are completely unoccupied (Bldg. 1930 containing four units and Bldg. 12115 containing six units).

Town Council Irresponsible Decisions ~ Cost to Taxpayers
  • $23.2 million in sales tax revenue “shared” with developer Vestar
  • $1 million to purchase the Community Center and Golf Courses from developer HSL
  • $1.2 million transferred from the General Fund Contingency to the Community Center Fund
  • $350,000 transferred from the General Fund into the Community Center Fund
  • $4.3 million in sales tax revenues since 2015 directed to the Community Center Fund
  • $50,000 to hire consultants to make recommendations to improve golf and restaurant operations

Total Cost: $30 million dollars

Beware of the Deal Makers
Keep all of this in mind as the next group of “deal makers” is setting us up for the next hoodwinking; the proposed $17 million dollar Naranja Park Bond, which will actually cost Oro Valley homeowners $28 million dollars in principle and interest payments via a 20-year long secondary property tax.

Expect the Naranja Bond to be another grossly oversold endeavor. Don’t get fooled again!

Monday, July 17, 2017

Guest View: Diane Peters ~ Oro Valley Town Council repeatedly gets Hoodwinked by “The Deal Makers.” Part 1.


An “Illuminating” Chain of Events
In March of 2015, Oro Valley Marketplace (OVM) had been operating for over 6 years when David Malin, (Vestar’s Project Manager for OVM) admitted during a council meeting that Vestar was still “scrambling to find tenants.” He insisted that adding illuminated signs on the back of the buildings would help them to attract the “dynamic tenants” that they were seeking. He implored the Town Council to revise the Master Sign Program to allow illuminated signs on the backside of the stores facing Oracle and Tangerine Roads.

That same evening, the Town Council voted 4-3 to revise the Master Sign Program at OVM to accommodate Vestar, thereby breaking a 9-year long agreement with Oro Valley residents to prohibit illuminated signs on those roadways in order to preserve the beauty of these scenic corridors. It will come as no surprise to avid LOVE readers that it was Mayor Hiremath and Councilmembers Hornat-Snider-Waters who voted to approve, while Councilmembers Burns-Garner-Zinkin were opposed.

David Malin presented the following plea during the March 4, 2015 Town Council meeting:
“All we’re asking for is to be on a level playing field. At the end of the day, this is a shopping center. We did spend hundreds of thousands of dollars and contributed public art in the middle of this project…but at the end of the day, we need to operate a successful shopping center and a successful shopping center is getting in as many dynamic tenants as we can so that lots of customers in the community go out and spend lots of money so we can make lots of sales tax for the Town.

Every time a retailer can’t check off a box, like whether they can have a sign on the back of their building, facing the road, we are then not on a level playing field. We are then scrambling to find tenants, which is where we are today.”

The Chamber of Commerce also weighed in:
Dave Perry, President of the Greater Oro Valley Chamber of Commerce, submitted a letter to the Town Council supporting the Master Sign Program revision. He wrote in part:
“The Marketplace has shining, successful businesses, but others that need more traffic. Last month, two Marketplace businesses closed. It is our understanding that others want to lease space in the Marketplace, but they want assurances of rear-wall signage.

We respectfully request those permissions be granted so that Oro Valley Marketplace can step closer to its full potential.”


Fast-forward to July 2017: Two years and four months later…
Two years is certainly enough time to determine whether or not the addition of illuminated signs on Oracle and Tangerine has been instrumental in drumming up new business. So, what is the status after two years and four months?

Only two new businesses have opened
It turns out that Vestar is still “scrambling to find tenants” because in the past two years since the Town agreed to revise the Master Sign Program, Vestar has attracted only two new businesses to OV Marketplace. Those businesses are Southern Arizona Urgent Care and Sakura Sushi (which according to Town records, opened in November 2015 and August 2016, respectively).

This begs the question, what happened to all of the other businesses that Dave Perry mentioned in his letter that would lease space at OVM once they had assurances of rear-wall signage? As of July 15, 2017, there are still 22 empty storefronts at Oro Valley Marketplace.

The $23 million dollar boondoggle
Many of you will remember that Vestar convinced the Town Council (and 52% of Oro Valley voters) to agree to a sales tax “incentive” known as an Economic Development Agreement (EDA) whereby Oro Valley would be required to share 45% of our sales tax revenue with Vestar up to $23.2 million dollars. In return, we were promised a “unique” mall with “signature shops.” What did we get? Discount chains including Wal-Mart and Big Lots and chain restaurants to include Olive Garden and In-N-Out-Burger.

Another grossly oversold enterprise
So in the end, the Majority-4 did an end run around the Town sign code, the Dark Skies initiative, and any consideration for what the residents wanted so they could entertain yet another request from a multi-million dollar corporation to prop up a failing enterprise which was grossly oversold to the taxpayers.

Part 2 of this article will be published tomorrow.
Diane Peters has lived in Oro Valley since 2003, moving here to escape the humidity of the East Coast. She’s been involved in OV politics and development issues since 2006. In 2014, she organized a citizens group, Citizen Advocates of the Oro Valley General Plan, who over a 9-month period, successfully negotiated a controversial 200-acre development project slated for the LaCholla-Naranja-Lambert-Shannon area. In her past life, she worked in medical research at various University Hospitals in New England. Her interests include reading, writing, nature photography, travel, art galleries, museums, and politics.