Wednesday, May 31, 2023

Guest View-Tony D'Angelo: Golf Should Be Treated Like Any Other Town Parks Amenity

I think we can agree that it is very difficult to understand the numbers the town posts for a number of things it operates
When it comes to golf, I also agree that when the town first acquired the El Conquistador operations, the amount it cost to operate golf was out of line with what it was contributing to the town. The good news is that Indigo Golf is doing a much better job today.

The challenge now is to decide how to look at municipal golf in comparison to other town provided recreational amenities
I believe we need to separate capital requirements from day to day operations. Municipal golf should not be judged by profit or loss, it is a town amenity similar to our various parks, the community center and the nature preserve. The measurement should be more linked to user fees as a percent of operating expenses. Attached is my best attempt to look at operations of the three entities that report numbers - the town managed community center operations (now including Vistoso Trails), contract managed operations (golf and the Overlook), and Parks and Recreation (aquatics, ball fields, concessions). Fees from golf is now consistently contributing a high percentage to the costs of operations. Fees from the others are now decreasing in their contributions to offsetting costs. This is not necessarily a bad thing if this is what the public wants from the town for the taxes paid.

With regards to capital investments, these will always be required for town amenities
The question is whether the investments assure town amenities can reasonably meet resident expectations over their life expectancy. With regard to the irrigation system upgrades, it is hoped that they will last at least 30 years. The ones they are replacing were over 40 years old. If the new systems last 30 years and golf on the 36 holes continues to average 80,000 rounds a year, the $9,000,000 investment will be allocated at an average of $3.75 per golfer who plays. Again, by comparison, the new playground at JDK Park cost $416,000. This was replacing a 20 year old playground. There is no user fees for maintenance and that’s okay. If we use the same $3.75 per user, we would need to average 15 kids playing each day for the next 20 years. That may be high or low but my point is we should look at all town amenities in a similar light and not single golf out as a profit center or expect a financial ROI.

This season on Pusch Ridge Golf we increased play by 8% over last year. A large number of this growth came from families - kids were free after 2:00 PM with adults. Green fees therefore did not grow as much as rounds did and again, that is okay if it is serving a broader community need.

No one wants to see golf lose money at the expense of other town needs. I think golf is a valuable amenity that contributes to what Oro Valley is as a town. It looks like it is on the right track by breaking even or at least coming close.

Tony D'Angelo
Friends of Pusch Ridge Golf
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Ed note: The primary reason that the community center and municipal golf are separated from other town parks and recreational activities is because both are funded by a designated portion of the sales tax. It is, therefor, a separate fund. It is accounted for as such. Also, a portion of these designated sales tax revenues are pledged for repayment of the $25 million parks bond that the town issued in 2021.
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