Glen Lakes gets 90-day reprieve

City Manager receomendes selling land, but council votes for 90-days to give citizens chance to save ailing golf course
By: 
DARRELL JACKSON, Staff Writer

Photo of Glen Lakes Golf Course during the heyday of the course as council seeks a staff review and public input on the future of the site.
 

Example of some of the repairs needed at Glen Lakes Golf Course.

After the city manager recommended closing and selling of the city-owned Glen Lakes Golf Course, councilmembers changed course and gave the course a reprieve of 90 days for review and public input on the future of the land.
City Manager Kevin Phelps recommended option three, which would have the city sell the land and develop the site as residential, commercial and a neighborhood park.
“If we are going to start fixing our parks, we have to start somewhere,” Phelps said. “This has been a bit of a challenge because, suffice to say, I play 100 rounds of golf a year. Nobody loves the sport more than I do, but part of my struggle with my recommendation and the notion of closing down the golf course does not come easy.”
During the Oct. 23 workshop presentation, Assistant City Manager Tom Duensing gave three options for the future of the land located at 5450 W. Northern Ave. The three options were, one, continue to operate as a municipal golf course; two, repurpose the site as a regional park, or three, repurpose the site as development and a neighborhood park.
“In option three, we would require a component that nine acres be turning into a neighborhood park to serve the community,” Duensing said. “If we do that, we estimate revenue from the sale of the property from $4 to $4.8 million.”
Add that to the $429,000 that has been allocated a year for management of the course and the city could see a windfall of nearly $5.5 million that Phelps said would be put into the budget for parks around the city.
“Look, I have been here for around 30 months and there are a lot of great things happening, but we are woefully underfunded for our parks system for operating and capital allocation for our parks system,” Phelps said. “Not a little bit, not just some, we are woefully underfunded where we spend per resident is $44.80 and other large cities in the Valley, the next lowest, is 57 percent more per citizen that what Glendale spends.”
The purpose of the workshop was originally to gain council consensus on selecting one of the proposed options for staff to move forward with, but the council came up with a fourth option to give residents 90 days to find volunteers or lower-cost contractors to offer their services to improve the course.
Council questions cost estimates
During Duensing’s presentation, he stated staff research estimated costs to improving Glen Lakes at between $5.1 million and $7.6 million based on estimates. Among the issues that need repair include between $2.1 million and $2.9 million to rebuild the pro shop and clubhouse, $800,000 and $1 million for irrigation system, and $750,000 and $1 million for a new maintenance facility.
“We are not just a little bit away from fixing this, we have significant issues all across the board that is factored into my decision,” Phelps said.
Staff showed pictures of numerous holes in the roof at the pro shop, fences that were falling over, roofs with rotting and crumbling wood and exposed electrical panels among the major issues at the course.
Barrel District Councilmember Bart Turner questioned the financial numbers presented for repairing the course.
“When I look at the cost estimates, and some of those number are between $5 and $7 million depending on high and low estimates,” Turner said. “It is my recollection that Grand Canyon University spent $10 million building their golf course and that is an 18-hole, championship course with a new golf course with a new clubhouse.”
GCU spent $10 million renovating the former Phoenix Maryvale Golf Course in 2015, rebranding the course as Grand Canyon University Golf Course, which was not in the same shape as Glen Lakes.
“I think we need to be realistic of what our expectations for Glen Lakes would be,” Turner said. “Players are happy with what is there course-wise and it just needs to be well maintained and in good, safe condition with great playability, and that is what we people are looking for.”

Staff says community will donate time, work
Numerous councilmembers said one reason to hold off on making a decision was because they have received information about people and companies interested in volunteering their time and supplies to assist in saving Glen Lakes.
A number of councilmembers said the city should also use the time to host more community meetings on the topic.
“I still say we need to have some community meetings on this and allow our (parks and recreation advisory commission) to review this,” Turner said. “This is park and open space and has been in our master plan for years, and once you develop open space, you don’t get it back if you change your mind and want more open space.”
Ocotillo District Councilmember Jamie Aldama and Turner said the issue should be sent back to the parks and recreation advisory commission to review and offer their suggestions after community meetings are held.
“We need to respect our board and commission, and we have disrespected them a few times in the past, and we need not do that now,” Turner said.
While councilmembers were intrigued by the community members who claim they have licensed contractors who are willing to offer free or reduced cost repairs, there were questions about those offers.
“If members of the community want to step up and save this course, this is their chance to step up now,” Sahuaro District Councilmember Ray Malnar said. “I believe 90 days is substantial to bring these offers forward and see if they are useable and then bring back to council for a decision.”
Phelps was quick to reiterate that it is not just repairs that are needed at Glen Lakes, but major work needs to be done, as well.
“The issues there are significant, but are they fixable? Yes,” Phelps said. “Are they fixable with a well-intended citizen brigade? No. You have got to get the main part of that building taken care of because what point is there fixing electrical problems when it rains, water pours into the building? There is also considerable dry rot in those buildings.”

Golf round costs declining
Duensing added that golf round costs continue to decline nationally, with rounds decreasing at 11.2 percent over the past five years to the lowest numbers since 1985. After a high nationwide of more than 500 million rounds played in the United States in 2000, the number of rounds has dropped to approximately 450 million in 2017.
For Glen Lakes to break even in operating costs, staff estimated they would raise green fees from the current $17.59 to $20.27, and they would have to have a minimum of 42,492 rounds played a year. Last year, staff said Glen Lakes hosted 14,182 rounds, which means play would have to increase by 200 percent just to break even financially. At Glen Lakes’ height of play, during the year 2005, the course hosted approximately 50,000 rounds, according to Public Facilities, Recreation and Special Events Director Jim Burke, with estimates as high as 60,000 at its peak.
“I, like other councilmembers, were waiting to hear this as I grew up just north of the course and played there when I was young,” Cactus District Councilmember Ian Hugh said. “The numbers are staggering to me. Just to break even, we need an immense increase in golfing after upping the rates, which never happens in business. If more discussion is needed, that is fine, maybe someone will come up with something but I just don’t see it getting better.”
Vice Mayor Lauren Tolmachoff was quick to point out she was not in favor of more time and believes they were not making the correct decision.
“What we are doing I do not think is fiscally sustainable or responsible, and basically, we are subsidizing golf is not fair to the tax base of the city,” Tolmachoff said. “I don’t feel it is fair to subsidize something for about 14,000 people a year that is paid for by the rest of the taxpayers in the city.”
Mayor Jerry Weiers also wondered if they delayed their decision, could the city’s other course — Desert Mirage Golf Course — be facing city assistance.
“Look, we don’t hate the golf course, it just hasn’t proven itself over time whether the city didn’t invest proper money or it had lousy management and city didn’t inspect it, we are where we are,” Weiers said. “We have another golf course that is barely making it, but they are making it without the city having to put money into it. With the decline in golf course and with Top Golf doing incredibly well, do we want to put more money into something that does not appear to have a long life? We have been on this over a year and we put half a million dollars a year into it to get where we are today and I don’t know why we keep putting this off.”

 
 

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