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City golf revenues below par lately

Janet Urquhart

Revenues generated at the Aspen Municipal Golf Course haven’t been up to par recently, but city officials are hoping next year’s construction of a new restaurant/clubhouse facility will help turn things around.

A bottom line that was projected to land in the red for the next several years caught the City Council’s eye during a budget review last week, but city staffers re-crunched the numbers later in the week and produced a picture that isn’t quite as bleak.

Golf course revenues have exceeded expectations this year and will actually be up slightly from 1999. The retooled budget adds nearly $100,000 to projected greens fee revenues for each of the next two years and puts golf course operations in the black for 2001. It is expected to lose money again in 2002, according to the latest budget projections.

The golf course’s 2001 budget reflects a $25 hike in pass costs for locals, according to Steve Barwick, city manager. Local players also saw pass prices rise this year.

The cost of a round of golf for tourists will remain the same next year, Barwick said, adding that the city will wait until next year’s construction work is done before hiking the greens fees for tourists.

“The greens fees revenues should go up with the new clubhouse,” Barwick said.

The municipal golf course operates as an “enterprise fund,” according to Tabatha Miller, the city’s finance director.

“That means, ideally, it covers its costs plus it is able to put money into its reserves for the future,” she said.

Instead, the golf course came up $63,490 short in 1998 and $125,691 short last year, according to Miller’s spread sheet for the operation. Those shortfalls were covered by money in the golf course’s reserve fund.

The golf course is projected to make a $71,364 profit this year and close 2001 in the black, as well, with $51,786 in net revenues. The latest budget projections have the course back in the red in 2002, however, with a $38,111 shortfall.

“It’s one [a budget] we’re concerned about,” Miller said. “We’ve had a pretty much declining revenue in the last few years. If revenues don’t go up, they will either have to cut staff or expenditures on some level.”

That is, unless the city subsidizes the operation from other funds, Miller added.

Steve Aitken, the city’s director of golf, expects business at the course to improve. The new clubhouse will help, but play by locals is up about 20 percent over last year anyway, he said. “Pass sales [to locals] this past year are up significantly,” Aitken said.

Tourists rounds are down about 10 percent, but the golf course is producing increased revenue from tourists because the greens fees they’re charged went up this season, Aitken said.

The course will generate an estimated $750,100 in greens fees this year, according to the revised budget projections. That’s up slightly from $745,248 in 1999, but still down from the $766,487 collected in the boom year of 1998.

“The key is whether we can return to that level of tourist rounds of just a few years ago,” Barwick said.

This year, locals paid $640 for an unlimited season pass, up from $565 in 1999. The 20-punch pass for locals was priced at $300 this year, up from $250 last year. It costs two punches to play 18 holes.

Greens fees for tourists vary throughout the day. This year, they paid $80 for an 18-hole round between 6:30 a.m. and 1 p.m., up from $70 last year; $65 between 1 and 3:30 p.m., up from $50 last year; and $45 after 3:30 p.m., up from $40 last year.

The golf course typically sees between 25,000 and 28,000 rounds of golf during a six-month season. Total rounds of play will be up this year, according to Aitken.

Competition from the growing number of golf courses in the valley is likely to blame for the municipal course’s recent struggles, according to Barwick.

The good news, he said, is it much easier for locals to get in a round of golf with fewer tourists booking tee times.

“Five years ago, I had trouble getting on the course,” he said.


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