Reporter - Rebecca Taylor

Aug 2, 2012 1:01 AM

Future of Tucson city golf courses discussed

TUCSON - Tough times and a tight budget for Tucson city golf courses could mean big changes for thousands of local players.

The program operates five public courses, Randolph, Dell Urich, Silverbell, Fred Enke and El Rio.

But it now faces an $8 million deficit largely due to declining numbers.

With a fee hike already on the table, officials could now consider privatiizing, subsidizing or closing one or more courses.

The Greens Committee's goal is to eliminate debt. Right now, running five city courses has their finances in a bunker.

Golfer Pat Benites says, "It's one of my favorite things to do in the world."

"I'm a golf fanatic, I play like five times a week, " golfer Jones Tembo said.

Golfer Karl Mare says, "Tucson has excellent city golf courses."

It's a popular pastime, no one wants to see cut in this tourist town, including stakeholders and the Greens Committee.

Stakeholder Frank Salbegos says, "And these golf courses behind me are empty and they shouldn't be, they shouldn't be."

Ideas being tossed around include, closing one or more courses, requesting the city give them a special rate for reclaimed water, privatize or turn public courses over to a non-profit. And transitions Fred Enke from an 18 hole course to nine.

Tembo says, "No no it wouldn't be a good thing. Fred Enck is a challenging golf course and you look forward to playing all 18 holes."

Benites says, "It wouldn't bother me as much as Dell Urich, Randolph, Silverbell or El Rio.

Rate hikes is another idea being considered. Just last month, junior golf went up $4, and retired city employees were stripped of their discount card.

Golfer Karl Mare says, "Initially you would gripe and groan, but another dollar or two or three, for four to five hours of entertainment isn't really that much."

"Sometimes I avoid playing because it's too costly," said Tembo.

"I think its important to keep them all open," says Benites.

Wednesday's meeting was all about generating ideas, nothing concrete was decided.

The committee meets again next month.

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