Big expectations

November 15, 2013 

Local governments have turned to nonprofits to help operate some public facilities, and there’s been mixed success. First Tee seems to be doing well with the operations of Muni Golf Course. The Modesto Youth Soccer Association is struggling with finances in the operation of the beautiful new Mary Grogan Park.

As Kevin Valine reported earlier this month, MYSA is suffering some growing pains. It faces a sizable goal: Raising $169,000 a year to cover the annual maintenance costs at the soccer complex, relying on profits from the concession stand, from tournament parking and other strategies. The nonprofit also needs to raise $2.1 million over 14 years for replacement of the artificial turf on three fields. With a task this large, some initial problems are to be expected. We hope the city will show some patience for its nonprofit partner but also provide some financial counsel.

The challenge is similar in Ceres, where the the city purchased the historic Whitmore Mansion and is counting on a nonprofit foundation to operate it. The first year has been tough in part because the previous owners did not move out until August. As Erin Tracy reported in Wednesday’s Bee, Ceres council members wanted the mansion to be self-sustaining – for fees from events to cover the costs of utilities. Again, we hope the city will work with the foundation, giving it time and assistance to make this arrangement work.

In these cases, government agencies are asking nonprofits to do something that governments weren’t able to do – break even on operating costs. It’s a big challenge for these kinds of special community facilities.

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