Board expects to close course

Park district has lost $1.08 million on golf in three years.Snyder Park course decision will come Monday.

The 93-year-old Snyder Park Golf Course is expected to close this year in order for the National Trail Parks and Recreation District to balance its budget, the board confirmed at Monday night’s work session.

National Trail’s golf operations have lost approximately $1.08 million over the last three years, including about $493,000 last year.

The closing of the Snyder Park golf course will save the financially-strapped district an estimated $357,500.

“The budget situation as it is has left this board with little to no decision,” said board president Maureen Massaro. “With 43 percent of our expenditures going towards the golf program, if we have to cut $350,000, I think that means we have to close one or more golf courses.”

No formal action was taken Monday, but members are expected to vote to close the course at next Monday’s meeting.

The district projects an approximately $356,000 shortfall this year. NTPRD will have approximately $3.8 million in income and approximately $4.16 million in expenses.

Last month, the city voted to reduce NTPRD’s subsidy from $1.1 million to $950,000.

The city budgeted a $1.1 million general fund subsidy in 2013, but NTPRD received $1.29 million to cover shortfalls for both the golf and swimming pool operations. City commissioners have told the district it would not bail them out if another shortfall were to occur, meaning NTPRD must stay within its budget this year.

Massaro said the board must have a long-term plan in place or the district could be faced with closing another golf course in the future.

“Whatever we do, we need to go into it with our eyes open that this could be the first move that needs to be made,” Massaro said.

Snyder Park’s course lost approximately $262,000 last year, while the courses at Reid Park lost $231,000. Golf rounds are down from 67,009 in 2009 to 44,479 last year.

If the course were to close, no full-time jobs would be eliminated by the district — only seasonal positions, including turf maintenance, pro shop and restaurant jobs.

The course could stay open a few months this year to allow local golfers a chance to play the course a few more times before it is closed forever. Massaro said the district will also have a plan in place to handle the memorials at Snyder Park golf course.

Springfield resident Bill Beach, the lone citizen to attend the meeting, was disappointed by the board’s decision but understands the reality of the financial situation. With more time, he believes a different decision could have been made.

“It’s where I played my first round of golf and where I met my wife,” said Beach, who also worked at the golf course for 13 years. “It’s a big emotional loss for me, but I understand the financial end of it. Something had to go and unfortunately, I think it might be the easy decision.”

The board discussed four scenarios for balancing the budget at the work session, facilitated by consultant Mel Marsh, including:

• closing Splash Zone Aquatic Center, which could provide a net savings of $100,000.

• implementing suggested cuts by golf superintendent Chris Flick, which would have provided up to $100,000 in potential savings.

• closing Reid South or both Reid Park golf courses. The district would save an estimated $672,000 if both courses were closed or an estimated $227,000 if Reid South were the course to close.

• closing Snyder Park Golf Course.

NTPRD Director Leann Castillo recommended closing Snyder Park’s course as the best alternative to balancing the budget. She said the district still wants to provide golf, and by closing Snyder Park’s course, the district will be able to focus its efforts on the 36 holes at Reid Park Golf Course. The leagues currently at Snyder can be accommodated by the courses at Reid Park, Castillo said.

“Looking at what we can do to stay in the market and make improvements,” Castillo said, “looking at it financially and not emotionally, the way to do that would be to close Snyder Park and operate all of our golf operations out of Reid, where we would have more opportunity to have the championship course and say, the easier course, in one location.”

Castillo said Snyder Park has a deed restriction that states it must stay a park. By reverting the land back to a green space, it will also allow levy funds to be used to maintain the land. The levy funds, which generated approximately $964,000 for the district last year, cannot be used to fund revenue-generating operations.

The city owns Reid Park, which could be sold to a private investor, according to finance director Mark Beckdahl. If those courses were to close, the district would still be contractually obligated to maintain the land for the city, Castillo said.

Board members Massaro, Shawn Jackson, Corey Holliday and Jim Kincaid said they would likely vote to close Snyder Park, while members Jack Simonton and Mike Calabrese said they would likely vote to close one or both of the Reid Park courses.

“It’s an ugly scenario no matter what,” Calabrese said. “We’re going to have the same conversation next year.”

Jackson said closing Snyder Park is “the best of the worst-case scenarios.” The city and the county are both providing less funds than used to because of tight budgets, Jackson said.

Simonton said he’s concerned about funding for future expenses, such as equipment or a new irrigation system.

Kincaid said he would like the course to stay open for a few months this summer to allow golfers a chance to play it a few more times, especially given the recent improvements in conditions.

“I think it would be a mistake to just shut the doors,” Kincaid said.

NTPRD set aside five percent of its budget to cover losses at the end of last year. The approximately $256,000 reserve fund was spent entirely on losses at golf courses and the pool, and the city needed to supply an additional $190,000 to cover the remainder of the shortfall.

The district is also losing money at the Splash Zone Aquatic Center. The pool lost $161,761 over the last three years, including $101,663 last year.

The pool saw its attendance decline from approximately 29,000 in 2012 to less than 15,000 last year due to bad weather. The district projects a $76,785 loss at the pool this year.

The district maintains 1,300 acres of open space in 23 parks and sports facilities, including Carleton Davidson Stadium, Splash Zone and the NTPRD Chiller ice arena. They also manage 30 miles of trails in Clark County.

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