Modesto officials will discuss Monday whether to close one of the city’s three golf courses and other options to reduce the general fund subsidy to the golf fund, which is expected to be nearly $783,000 in the current budget year.
The matter will be discussed at the City Council’s Finance Committee. The decision to close a course or pursue other options will be made at a council meeting.
City documents show Modesto would reduce its general fund subsidy the most by closing the nine-hole Modesto Municipal Golf Course. The city has talked about closing the course several times in recent years.
Closing Muni would cut the subsidy to an annual average of $326,000 over five years, according to the documents. The documents say the subsidy would increase if the city were to close the 18-hole Creekside Golf Course or the 18-hole Dryden Golf Course. For instance, the subsidy to the golf fund would be more than $1 million annually over five years if the city closed Creekside, according to the documents.
Other options include contracting with an organization to take over the full operations, including the finances, of the Muni golf course. The First Tee of Central Valley – which helps young people build character through golf – manages Muni for the city in lieu of paying rent.
First Tee Executive Director Cathy Mendoza said her organization is “open to the idea of creative management of the course and a partnership that would be a win-win situation.” She said that whatever decisions are made, First Tee will continue. It operates under the auspices of the nonprofit Del Rio CC Foundation.
The city also could continue to have ValleyCrest Golf Maintenance take care of the three courses and KemperSports manage the two 18-hole courses under a new two-year contract that would slightly reduce the subsidy.
Closing the Muni golf course would be a blow for the community. Modestans have learned how to play golf at the venerable nine-hole course for more than 60 years.
Modestan Hollie McCain may be a newcomer to the sport, but she played her first round at the Muni course earlier this year. She said she respects its deep roots in the community.
“It’s a beautiful place. It’s something to look forward to in this area,” she said. “It’s shame to get rid of something with so much history.”
Manteca resident Mitch Goldstein was at Muni with his 11-year-old son, Nu, for a Saturday morning round of golf. He said closing it would be a great loss to young golfers.
“I don’t think they should close it because this is where the kids play; it’s an easy place for them to come,” he said.
A city report also outlines about $2.9 million in capital improvements the golf courses need, such as a new irrigation system and repaving the parking lot at Dryden. The report does not say where the city would get the money to pay for the improvements.
The 163-acre Creekside course opened in 1991. The report states it is the easiest to water, and as the city’s newest course, it needs the fewest capital improvements. The city is paying off the debt to build the course until 2023. The annual payment is $526,292.
It’s a beautiful place. It’s something to look forward to in this area. It’s shame to get rid of something with so much history.
Hollie McCain of Modesto, on the Modesto Municipal Golf Course
The report states the 130-acre Dryden course is in a floodplain, and if it were to close, it could become part of the nearby Tuolumne River Regional Park. But there is a caveat. The Dryden family donated half of the land for the course in 1955 with the condition that it be used for an 18-hole municipal golf course. Changing the use of the land would require the family’s consent.
The report states the 54-acre Muni course’s proximity to John Thurman Field makes it a good location for such athletic uses as junior or senior league softball, soccer and baseball.
The bad times for Modesto golf come as the game has declined nationwide, and the city’s courses have been hit hard by four years of drought. And it comes as the city tries to reduce or eliminate general fund subsidies to city operations. The general fund makes up about a third of the city’s roughly $367 million operating budget and primarily pays for public safety. The fund shrank during the Great Recession and has not yet rebounded.
But the need for subsidies persists.
The Finance Committee also is expected to recommend the council approve transferring $425,015 from the general fund to subsidize operations at Modesto Centre Plaza – the city’s downtown convention center – for the 2014-15 budget year, which ended June 30. That would increase the general fund subsidy for that budget year to $642,158.
The city had hoped it could get through the 2014-15 budget year with a partial subsidy to Centre Plaza because it expected to reach a deal to have the DoubleTree Hotel take over the center. But a deal could not be reached, and a bigger subsidy was required.
And the committee will be asked to recommend the council approve transferring $649,211 from the general fund to the golf fund to make up for what a city report calls “a deficit in operating revenues to operating expenses in previous fiscal years prior to fiscal year 2014-15.” It is not clear why those deficits were not covered by the general fund subsidies to the golf fund.
The Finance Committee meets at 5 p.m. in conference room 2001 on the second floor of Tenth Street Place, 1010 10th St.
Bee reporter Marijke Rowland contributed to this report.
Kevin Valine: 209-578-2316