The Mayor and Town Council have been deliberating on a potential closure or repurposing of the golf courses for nearly a year. The rhetoric in the special study sessions and council meetings suggests that this is a critical economic issue for all Oro Valley residents whether you play golf or not or whether or not you live on the course.
It is an indisputable fact that that our golf courses are “economic engines” which add so much to the overall fabric of our town and the attractiveness of a community we have come to love: safest city in Arizona; Arizona’s best small city; One of America’s 10 safest suburbs; Best place in AZ to raise kids; and one of 100 best places in America to live and launch a small business.
These accolades did not just happen without a lot of dedicated community leaders making Oro Valley the attractive community it is today. It is the result of careful planning and solid business management which seems lacking right now in some parts of the council chambers.
We are all facing a quality of life issue. The quality of life here is palpable! Golf is a defining component and centerpiece of our town, supporting jobs and adding revenue streams in many ways to both the town and the business community. Government does not exist to become a profit center. It exists to provide services and a quality of life to its residents. Some of our elected leaders have apparently lost their compass.
I am deeply concerned about the substantial negative fallout a closing or repurposing would have on our community, including major devaluation of homes from 5 to 20 percent depending on proximity to golf courses and significant loss of property tax revenue which supports roads, schools, libraries, police and fire.
The mayor and three councilmembers have manufactured a crisis by having us believe that golf is bankrupting our town. Just not true. The Community Center Fund had a year-end surplus of $502,164 as of June 30. The fact is that the Community Center Fund is only 5 percent of the Town’s total budget and golf is but a portion of that fund. There is no financial crisis.
Rather, there are four members of the council who simply want golf shut down and the open space re-purposed into desert landscaping at a cost of millions of dollars.
Also missing is a solid golf marketing plan which nobody is discussing. The town leadership together with its golf manager, Troon, need to work together on developing a viable marketing plan which will improve the revenue cycle by attracting new business and new customers for the golf courses.
Also, let’s not forget about a “diamond in the rough” called The Overlook Restaurant. This venue boasts of having one of the prettiest city and mountain views in Tucson but it needs some TLC and a major operational overhaul.
Maybe the right path is for the town to get out of the restaurant business, turn it over to a local restaurateur to lease it from the town and make it a viable operation and food destination not just for golfers but for our community.
So, regardless of whether or not you are a golfer or whether or not you agree with these thoughts, please carefully consider what’s at risk if the mayor and three council members prevail. The economic ramifications for our community are huge. We remind the mayor and the three council members that they are faced with a positive opportunity; not a negative problem.
Tom Plantz is an Oro Valley resident.