Supervisors to revisit golf course controversy Thursday
April 27, 2013
When Mark Twain called golf a good walk spoiled, Carson City was a tiny state capital community and the Eagle Valley golf course complex didn't exist.
Now, however, Eagle Valley's 36-hole municipal golf layout sprawls along the north side of Highway 50 East. Whether that continues is scheduled for an airing when the Board of Supervisors tees up a possible new contract with the complex operators on Thursday. As debate ensues, private golf course spokesmen may oppose the pact and push alternatives.
"It's time for city government to pursue many of the (other) possible uses and move on," said Garth Richards, a co-owner at the 18-hole Silver Oak Golf course along College Parkway.
A long-time Carson City developer, Richards and Dwight Millard, whose 27-hole Empire Ranch golf complex is a few blocks south of Highway 50 East, know city government and its non-profit course operator are competition as the sport has fallen on hard economic times.
"This is occurring nationwide," said Richards, who cited Northern Nevada course closures, said some others are bank-owned and can't be sold, while the case of supply-and-demand means the rest compete for dwindling golf rounds by players.
A city-commissioned Moss-Adams LLP study on the municipal course took account of that, citing "a long-term trend of declining golf with no current evidence suggesting a significant rebound."
Richards, asked about others saying he built his course to sell houses when Eagle Valley already existed, replied that he pays his taxes and has been in business here since 1962. The city course doesn't pay property taxes. He also is aware public complex operators have fallen behind on contractual obligations to the city.
Speaking about the plight of private courses after learning the issue is slated for Thursday's board meeting, Richards cited alternative uses for the Eagle Valley grounds and emphasized his own in particular. He seeks a Mustang ranch at Eagle Valley and an Old West theme ranch elsewhere as well, with that one based on 19th century lore.
He said they could both be combined tourist attractions to complement the V&T Railway.
"Let's reincarnate the Ponderosa Ranch," he said, mentioning the real 19th century ranch and the imaginary one in the modern "Bonanza" television series of the 20th century.
The issue before the board, unless it gets delayed, will be an amended golf course lease agreement between city government and the Carson City Municipal Golf Corp. to operate Eagle Valley East and West for a monthly payment amounting to 6 percent of gross revenues.
The required fixed annual payment to help service bonded indebtedness has been decreased periodically, but this payment scheme becomes part of the gross rather than the latest fixed figure of $120,000 annually. Eagle Valley had fallen short even on that through difficult economic times.
An underlying issue, which Richards calls a driving force, is city government's need to use treated effluent wastewater from the sewage plant to water Eagle Valley land and keep it out of the Carson River, a federal requirement. The effluent waters also are used on other land, including at Silver Oak and Empire Ranch.
Steve McIntyre, the non-profit golf corporation's board chairman, indicated the pact renegotiated with city staff will keep municipal golf alive if the board approves it. He said golf will come back in Carson City, revenues were spent wisely to keep the complex in good shape while falling behind on city payments, but a turnaround may be at hand.
"We're having a good year," he said, noting payments are resuming. "We've paid them every month this year."
He also said the new pact would extend the payment provision for the life of the complex, not some time-limited period as before, adding municipal golf provides recreational opportunities for all.
Support for that view came in letter sent to City Hall by Carson City resident Harry Snoek, who seeks Eagle Valley complex continuation.
"The course supports junior golf, high school golf, those who want to learn to play the game of golf, senior golfers and parents who want to take a child out to play a round of golf," Snoek wrote.
How the issue winds up getting resolved remains, like a tee shot, airborne or skipping across the fairway toward bunker or green. As supervisors ponder pros and cons, another Mark Twain comment on golf might amuse if not provide counsel: "It's good sportsmanship to not pick up lost golf balls while they are still rolling."