Phoenix Leaders Weighing Future Of City Golf Courses

Published: Monday, February 27, 2017 - 5:05am
Updated: Monday, February 27, 2017 - 7:57am
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Palo Verde in Phoenix is a 9-hole course located at 15th and Maryland avenues.

Nearly four years after approving a $17 million plan to keep city-owned golf courses open, Phoenix leaders could once again debate whether to stay in the golf business. The Parks and Recreation Department says more rounds are being played, but program remains in the red.

When Phoenix created its golf enterprise fund in 1981, the thinking was the program would pay for itself. While it’s not doing that today, Parks and Recreation Director Inger Erickson told the Parks subcommittee it is doing a good job.

“The golf course recovers 80 percent of its expenditures,” she said. “And a program like aquatics with the swimming pools only recovers 10 percent.”  

Of the city’s six courses, the worst performing is Palo Verde at 15th and Maryland avenues. The city’s sole course with only nine holes lost $300,000 last year, which led resident Greta Rogers to demand the city sell it. 

“We can’t afford luxury and that’s what we’re still supporting — with debt,” she said.

“When we had this conversation a couple years ago there was a lot more bleeding than this and a lot of work has been done,” Councilman Daniel Valenzuela said.

He pointed out that other recreational activities are taxpayer subsidized, including basketball courts and swimming pools and said, “These are cost of living decisions that have to be made ultimately by the general public and by the policymakers.”

Councilwoman Laura Pastor asked the Parks Department to explore possible partnerships for Palo Verde, like the ones between Grand Canyon University and the Maryvale Course and Arizona State University and the Papago Course. They generated a profit of $420,000 the last fiscal year.

By the numbers

Six city-owned courses

300,000 golfers in FY 2015-16

223,000 rounds played in FY 2015-16

Overall program recovers 80 percent of costs

Four of six courses reported losses in FY 2015-16

Read more of the City Council report here.