A long way to green for golf course? | PostIndependent.com

A long way to green for golf course?

Greg Masse
Post Independent Staff

GLENWOOD SPRINGS – A city-owned golf course has the potential to fund other recreational programs in the future, but it would come at a high cost to the city during the next 20 years, a financial report concludes.

City Council looked at three conceptual designs for a municipal golf course, as well as a feasibility study on the course, during a special work session with the city Parks and Recreation Commission on Wednesday.

If approved, the golf course would be built at the foot of Red Mountain between the Community Center and the Municipal Operations Center, on land dedicated for open space by Glenwood Meadows developers.

According to a 20-year bond debt service schedule produced by Stifel Nicolaus/Hanifen Imhoff Inc., if the city borrows $9 million to build a golf course, the interest paid over the life of the loan would be $4.6 million.

If a $12.3 million loan were taken out to fund the golf course and help fund a swimming pool and a theater at the Community Center and a whitewater park on the rivers in town, the interest would total $6.3 million.

On a yearly basis, payments on a $9 million loan would be $680,000, and a $12.3 million loan would have payments of close to $1 million per year.

In a March 5 memorandum to City Council, city manager Mike Copp wrote, “Although we have to wait 20 years to begin seeing help for other recreational programs, please let’s not be shortsighted.”

Once paid off, Copp said the course has the potential to bring in revenues that potentially could pay for the city’s parks and recreational programs.

According to a net income summary done by THK Associates of Aurora – in what a company representative called “conservative estimates” – the golf course will generate more than $700,000 a year by the time it’s paid off in 2023. Copp believes the golf course could be bringing in upwards of $1 million per year in net revenue by the time it’s paid off.

Funding for studies

The idea of building a city golf course at Wulfsohn Ranch is not new. In 1990, voters rejected a general obligation bond to build a course at Wulfsohn Ranch.

The golf course concept was extolled by City Council members in October during its 2003 budget hearings, and again in January during a City Council goal-setting session.

So far, the city has spent $9,500 on a feasibility study by THK Associates and will wind up spending around $13,000 on three possible golf course concepts put together by Phelps Golf Course Design of Evergreen, Copp said.

The funding was informally approved by City Council around 11:30 p.m. at City Council’s Nov. 21 meeting during the “comments from council” portion of that meeting. There was no public notice of the funding request and no public hearing.

According to the minutes of that meeting, that informal approval consisted of Mayor Don Vanderhoof asking Copp “to investigate what it will cost and who is available and capable of a study.”

Copp said it is not uncommon for spending to be informally approved in this manner.

“We approve more money than that under comments from council,” he said. “They’ve done that under many occasions.”

Copp said the city staff has “broad discretion, as long as we’re within budgetary constraints.”

Funding for the conceptual design and feasibility study came from Parks and Recreation Department fees, he said.

How to pay for it

The funding mechanism pitched by Copp to pay for the golf course and, possibly other recreational amenities, is called a Certificate of Participation.

COPs are a way for municipalities to get millions of dollars without legally going into debt, thereby skipping a public vote that would be required under the state’s TABOR Act.

“It’s one way of doing it. The certificates would have to have year-to-year approval by council,” Copp said.

The decision to borrow money using COPs, or by asking voters to approve a general obligation bond, is ultimately up to City Council, he said.

In addition to the golf course, if $12.3 million were garnered from the COPs, it could also be used to help fund a $1 million kayak park on the Colorado and Roaring Fork rivers, and add $750,000 toward the fund-raising drive for a swimming pool at the Community Center.

Contact Greg Masse: 945-8515, ext. 511


Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

Readers around Glenwood Springs and Garfield County make the Post Independent’s work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.

Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.

Each donation will be used exclusively for the development and creation of increased news coverage.