Editorial: Municipal course is in the hands of golfers now
The City of Prescott is just plain stuck with its municipal golf course. And the golf course is stuck with relying on its members for survivability.
Those realities will clash this week.
Talk in council chambers Tuesday will include the possibility of raising rates for Antelope Hills' rounds of golf. We know how that will go over in the golf community.
The city has already demonstrated that the course is a priority, spending money on new carts and on remodeling its old clubhouse, both in the interests, we're told, of appealing to tourists and locals alike to pay down the course's debt through new revenue streams. Funding for both expenditures came from city coffers, which means that even non-golfers in the community are publicly subsidizing a municipal course that they never use. We know how that goes over with taxpayers.
The bottom line is that, clearly, the financial situation is not improving at Antelope Hills. The course is already in debt to the city's general fund to the tune of millions of dollars.
Now a push to potentially raise rates.
Despite operating in the red, we cannot support any additional public money going toward a struggling public endeavor. In other words, the golfers themselves - local and tourist alike - must support the course on their own, hence the potential rate hike.
It's hardly that simple. Basic economics suggest that if golfers are unable or unwilling to pay more for rounds of golf, they'll go elsewhere to get their golf fix. We wonder if a potential rate hike will take into account the inevitable flee of some golfers for what they may regard as more affordable rates on other local links.
We've been down this road with the municipal course before. Enough public money has gone into trying to reverse a financial fate that seems stuck in one direction. And we'd love if golfers could sustain Antelope on its own.
We may see if that's possible should the council decide to raise rates and put the financial solvency into the hands of the golfers and not the taxpayers. The numbers indicate that seems unlikely, given that rounds of golf at Antelope have dropped by almost 17,000 rounds total from 2004 to 2011. Raising rates isn't the best way to promote the course.
If the taxpayers can't (or shouldn't) save it, and if the golfers can't (or won't) save it, Antelope Hills' fate is sealed.