Up in the air: Rough and bunkers abound over fate of Eagle Valley golf complex
February 10, 2013
When the fate of the Eagle Valley Golf complex next reaches the Carson City Board of Supervisors, teed up for debate will be too much effluent and too little affluence.Numerous issues may get cited, but these are the key elements: Two city-owned courses are leased to a nonprofit corporation not making full lease payments, in part because golfing dwindled in the recession; and the city uses these and private courses to offload wastewater effluent.Private course owners want what they call a level playing field financially, but the nonprofit says it can’t make full lease payments now. And Eagle Valley spokesmen say they’ve already ponied up a bunch.“We’ve paid the city a lot of money in this program,” said Steve McIntyre, head of the Carson City Municipal Golf Corp.He and Jim Kepler, who runs Eagle Valley East and West golf courses for the nonprofit, say they’ve paid city government $3.4 million over 16 years. That’s an average of $212,500 annually.In recent years, however, payments declined to a few thousand dollars monthly as golf rounds dropped during the recession and course improvements were made.Eagle Valley recorded 90,000 rounds a year in its heyday, but that’s down a third now. About one-fourth of the current 60,000 rounds are deemed to involve out-of-town players now, course operators say. Lease payments are designed to defray city bonded indebtedness, which began years ago. The golf complex uses the city’s wastewater effluent to water the courses, as do private courses. The system was started in the 1970s amid federal requirements that it be kept out of the Carson River.Dwight Millard, owner of the 27-hole Empire Ranch Golf Course, said he feels for the city because of the problem. He said he didn’t criticize the system until a dozen years after he opened his course in 1997.“I didn’t struggle with the nonprofit until — I think it was ’09 — they didn’t make their payments,” he said. “I’m becoming of the opinion now that Eagle Valley ought to close.”In part, Millard’s comment was a reply to criticism that private course owners built their courses as a lure to fill housing developments.“They wanted to build houses,” McIntyre said. Millard, meanwhile, said Eagle Valley East could be converted into soccer and baseball fields.He also said he and others in private course ownership discussed taking over golf operations if the city re-bid rather than sticking with the status quo.That was one option outlined in a Moss Adams LLP report to city supervisors early this year.“The city should enforce lease terms, renegotiate the terms of the lease, or re-bid the Eagle Valley lease,” the report said.The report took note of both the lack of affluence factor, saying declines in disposable income hurt, and the nonprofit’s decision was to do course improvements rather than making payments.McIntyre and Kepler say they are paying $5,000 monthly, except in December and January. That’s $50,000 a year. The lease, which the Moss-Adams report said was lowered to $120,000 annually in 2008-09, has brought in just $70,000 of $480,000 required since.McIntyre, Kepler and city staffers are talking about options, according to City Manager Larry Werner, but the nonprofit’s spokesmen indicate they want a renegotiated payment of $50,000 or $75,000 a year. Kepler talked about the higher figure, McIntyre the lower amount.McIntyre said if the city demanded $200,000 in higher and/or back payments from the complex immediately, “it would close because we don’t have it.”Kepler said the nonprofit has no bargaining power with city government even though the city manager said it would be costly to dispose of the effluent in another manner.Kepler and McIntyre say golf at the municipal complex serves the young, old and in-between, plus means $13 million in economic benefit to the city based on the city’s own multiplier formula.In addition, they say, the city gets $475,000 from sales tax based on course operations.Millard and others, however, counter the municipal courses don’t have to pay property taxes, using that as one of their arguments about having a level playing field.Millard acknowledged he is behind in his own golf course property taxes, but says eventually he will pay them plus penalties while the city is unlikely to get back rent from Eagle Valley.McIntyre disputes that.“Eventually, we will make all those payments,” said the nonprofit’s spokesman.