The first in an expected series of public comment meetings was held at El Rio Community Center Wednesday night at 5:30 p.m. about the future of Tucson Golf and how it will better cover its own costs.
Tucson Golf is running more than $7 million in the red from past years. That debt increases to $12 million if you include bonds that the city's paying off. And general fund money, which are funds that could be used on police and other services is helping to cover the gap.
We've heard how the city has five golf courses. And while three are making money, two of them, which are El Rio and Fred Enke, are not. The city will be looking for non-profit and for-profit companies who are interested in running the courses. But it's also trying to close Enke and make it a general use park. The National Park Service, which is in charge of that land, has said that the switch might not be that easy.
The estimate at Wednesday night's public comment meeting was that the city-owned El Rio golf course loses about half a million dollars a year.
The city is shopping for a private or non profit company to take over one or more of its five courses. If that happens, the chances are that the company won't want El Rio.
About 150 people showed up at El Rio Community Center to sound off on what the city should do with El Rio golf course, which also hosts the First Tee program for young golfers. Those who lined up at the microphone either said the course must keep all 18 holes and the city should find a way to do that for revenue, or they said that El Rio should be joined with nearby Joaquin Murrieta park to provide more recreational space for nearby residents, which many neighbors said has been necessary for years.
"We continue to have this discussion. the first and much more important thing for me is to stop the bleeding. we cannot be having deficits, we cannot have golf and el Rio losing half a million dollars a year," said Ward One councilwoman Regina Romero.
"They say, 'well, I don't like golf, I never play golf, let's do it this way' and then the other people say, 'I do play golf and I want the parks.' well, then fix Joaquin Murrieta park, fix El Rio," said Bob Gaona, a retired PGA golfer who grew up near El Rio and learned to play there.
The next public comment meeting like this should be in about a month.
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