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City announces recommendations for golf operations

The City of Cedar Rapids has completed an internal review of the golf operations of the Parks and Recreation Department, which oversees the 18-hole Gardner, Jones, Twin Pines and Ellis golf courses. The purpose of the review was to identify recommendations that would close a budget shortfall that averaged $342,000 annually over the periods of fiscal years 2013, 2014 and 2015. Options that were considered included outsourcing management, closing or selling one or more courses, contracting golf pros, expanding concessions and merchandising, pricing adjustments, and identifying new revenue streams.

The review committee recommends closing Jones Golf Course and maintaining management of the City’s other three courses. Jones had the greatest financial losses among all the courses in four of the past five years. Jones also had the fewest number of golfers of the four courses. A market analysis showed Jones Golf Course is poorly located for the demographics around it, and it is competing for golfers at other City courses because of proximity. 

Much of the financial loss at Jones is due to the flooding of Prairie Creek which causes the course to close 9 or 18 holes repeatedly. There were full or partial closings of the course 22 times in the past 16 years. There is a direct correlation between the number and duration of flood events at Jones and its performance. The deficit comes from the loss of revenue, not costs associated with repair. It is estimated that play will move from Jones to other City courses assisting in their financial performance.

The land will be retained as a 70-acre enlargement of Jones Park with potential uses of wetlands for land credits, prairie conversion as part of the 1000 Acres Pollinator Initiative, and a sod farm for Parks and Recreation Department facilities and projects. The maintenance buildings and clubhouse will be repurposed and used by the Department. Additional long term plans may include a dog park, improved disc golf course, and conversion of golf cart paths to trails.

The other recommended operational changes include reducing the tee time intervals at Ellis and Gardner Golf Courses to expand the capacity of the courses, particularly during the full in-demand weekend mornings. Slight increases to season passes and daily greens fees at Ellis and Gardner, the more premiere courses, are recommended to bring fees in line with other municipalities that operate three golf courses. Twin Pines fees will remain the same as 2016. All three courses will feature a lower Senior 9 hole rate during the weekdays.

A budget developed for the operation of three courses shows the recommendations will “swing” Golf Operations $430,000 allowing for complete closure of the budget shortfall. Golf operations would make payments to the City’s General Fund to repay past debt.

Recommendations will be implemented with the 2017 golf season.

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