Tucson Golf may downsize - Tucson News Now

Tucson Golf may downsize

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TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) -

In its heyday, the city of Tucson's five golf courses were fat and happy, making enough money that city leaders used the profits to fund other programs.

Those days are long gone.

Tucson Golf now operates at a $1.2 million annual deficit and has an $8 million debt it can't repay.

But the problem is not limited to Tucson.

There are five municipal courses in Phoenix which hold a $17 million debt.

Both cities are looking for answers because it's a dwindling taxpayer dollar which makes up for the shortfall.

"We have streets to take care of, we have police and firefighters to take care of," says Ward ! Tucson city council member Regina Romero. "We have other services which are a much more important priority."

It's not that golf can't take care of itself on a day to day basis.

Golf has seen a small 1 percent increase in the past year. To golf supporters, that's a light at the end of the tunnel.

But that's a long shot at best.

"We still haven't addressed significant issues like irrigation and carts at Fred Enke," says Parks Director Fred Grey. "Ultimately your parking lots, roofs, air conditioning, things along those lines that need attention."

They have garnered attention. But not the kind supporters hoped for.

""As we stand now, we have about five million in capital improvement in golf that we don't have money for," Romero says.

Phoenix is having the same issue but has put off major capital repairs for several years. Despite that, the debt continues to grow.

"Per capita, Phoenix has one of the largest numbers of golf holes in America," says DAvid Urbinato, communications director for the Phoenix Parks and Recreation Department.

That means competition to fill the golf courses is intense.

"That's going to lead to operating deficits which is what Phoenix has been struggling with for many years now," Urbinato says.

Phoenix and Tucson are taking opposite paths in trying to solve the problem.

Phoenix will treat is golf courses as parks, using a dedicated fund to pay down its golf debt.

This follows a series of meetings where the public showed support for that decision.

"The overwhelming consensus was please keep the golf courses open," he says.

The people told the parks department "it's an important recreational activity."

Tucson on the other hand, has decided golf courses are not like parks which are subsidized by the taxpayer.

"Parks cost much less to manage and operate and are free and open to every single person," Romero says. "Anyone can go to a park."

Romero says Tucson golf has $5 million in capital needs "which the city does not have money for."

"We don't like to see any course fail," says Grey. "But it's a sign of the times."

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