Tuesday 21 February 2012

Winnipeg's golf courses: Wrap up

Previous posts:
action items: part I
action items: part II

In the current state of affairs, the City of Winnipeg owns 12 golf course complexes, under 5 different management systems, with losses of $1 million per year and increasing.

My goals are:
1) stop the downward spiral of massive losses, and hopefully make golf a break-even proposition for the City
2) improve the quality of public golf in and around Winnipeg
3) increase public green space
4) increase urban density

Some of these goals may seem contradictory. It may sound like I'm asking for too much, but hey ... shoot for the stars.

So of the city's 12 golf courses:

My grand plan scraps 5 of them:

Three of those are definitely obsolete money losers. Both Kildonan and Windsor Park require $1.5 million in upgrades just to get back to the condition they should be in, according to the study done for the city. Even then, their layouts and amenities are substandard. Ditto for Canoe Club, which has deferred capital requirements of $775,000. This alone will go a long way towards stemming the losses of Winnipeg Golf Services.

I feel kind of bad about blowing up St.Boniface, but it was sacrificed because of it's potential for excellent river-side green space and infill development, in conjunction with neighboring Windsor Park.

My arm could be twisted enough to spare Wildewood as well, since reports are that it's a nice little track. But if so, then the nearby Canoe Club should be scrapped and Wildewood should be sold to a private golf course operator. In fact, that's probably the better option. Maybe the nordic spa can purchase land next to Wildewood instead of Canoe Club.

So either Canoe Club or Wildewood -- whichever one we're keeping -- should be privatized. Also, Blumberg:

Which leaves 5 public courses, one for each quadrant of the city, plus Harbour View, which is a beginner par 3 course:

For more on the logic, or lack thereof, behind these decisions, please review the previous two posts. There are some very good comments in those posts as well.

5 courses is a reasonable number for a city to own. Much more reasonable than 12. Some might say that 0 is the only reasonable number, but that's a big leap from where we are. Now, if the city is going to own courses, it should not run the courses. The city has done a lousy job with the courses that it currently operates and maintains. Farm out the responsibility to a third party, complete with service level objectives and penalties for letting service or course condition slide.

How does this accomplish my objectives?
1) big money-losing courses are gone, replaced partly with development that will generate greater property tax revenue. The remaining courses should have decent attendance.
3) yes, green space does increase. A golf course is not "green space", depending on your definition. Green space to me is free public space that anybody can access any time. That is not the case for a golf course. I'm convinced that many people who are fighting to 'keep the golf courses as green space' are more concerned about losing their view than having actual space to picnic and frolic in the grass. My plan increases actual green space along the Seine River, up by Kildonan Park, and little bit in Wildewood.
4) new houses will be built somewhere. You can either build out and decrease density, or you can use space available within the city and increase density. Perhaps some of this golf course space can fill our need for new units until that Kapyong Barracks fiasco gets sorted out.

See, there you go! Oh right .. I forgot number 2.

2) As a golfer, I have a direct stake in the golf environment here in Winnipeg. There are indeed some sacrifices here, but in the end, of the 5 courses that were scrapped only two were public, and those were inevitable. Meanwhile, my plan calls for two previously semi-private courses to be made public, both of which are far better quality than the two that were scrapped. Public golf will actually improve.

The big losers are the patrons of the semi-private courses. However there are several very good private courses around that people could become members at if they have the dough. I have heard that some of these aren't doing great and could use new members. As well, I am hopeful that the loss of some of these marginal courses in the city will be mitigated by new courses springing up just outside the city. It is possible that golf course developers are spooked by the large quantity of city-owned courses.

So there you go. Whew. That was a long fours posts. Time for me to sit back, relax, and sip on a fine single malt as I watch the smart people at city hall spring into action implementing everything I wrote.


"Outlaw" Adam Knight said...

I see positives and negatives in your plan. However, scrapping the Canoe Club and Windsor Park would make me very sad as I play both of those courses every year.

While the 6th hole at Canoe is BRUTAL, I enjoy that one the most - usually play it several times a year.

And Windsor PArk is practically where I grew up.

But, sacrifices and all that.

Anonymous said...

Point of the effort, was ?

cherenkov said...

Howdy Outlaw. I appreciate your sacrifices. Have you tried Southside Golf Centre? Might be a good alternative.

Anon: does anything I write have a point? Actually, CBC took notice of this little series and invited me on the radio, so you never know ...

One Man Committee said...

I, for one, agree with the general sentiment in this series. Given that a lot of municipal courses are either totally obsolete or in need of major improvement, the plethora of courses in and around the city, the fact that many (most?) of these courses operate at a loss and the desirability of these lands for more productive uses all point in the direction of rationalizing the number of golf courses held by the municipal government.

Anonymous said...

Wow. Get ride of golf courses that have been here for a hundred years? Yah sure why not? Let the seniors that play there everyday go to the mall instead. Look at the growing population out North Main and tell me that's not more opportunity for the golf course. Forget about the kids that play there almost every second day during the Summer. Maybe they should go to the mall too? Maybe they should go play soccer? How much did the soccer fields we build in the last few years cost? Who pays for those? How much do they produce?

The golf courses are not managed properly. That's a fact. To just say get ride of them is a sad mistake that will never be able to be reversed. Maybe don't pay kids union wages during the Summer to work there.

Golf courses rarely lose money unless they're mismanaged. That's were the efforts should lay. Go to the doctor with a cold, he doesn't cut off your head to cure it.

OMG. A million dollars a year? Rapid Transit. Bike lanes. Museum For Human Rights? .20 cent hike for Transit users? Maybe your efforts should have been placed elsewhere to save us a bit more money?

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