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9:52 PM Mon, Sept. 24th

Golf rate increases are under review for Prescott's Antelope Hills

PRESCOTT - In an effort to shore up revenues, the City of Prescott's Antelope Hills Golf Course is proposing a restoration of golf rates that were in effect before a 2010 economy-related reduction.

During a workshop on Tuesday, Antelope Hills Manager Mack McCarley proposed increasing the greens fees for local residents by $2, and by another $1 for cart rental.

While local residents currently pay $38 for golf and a cart, McCarley is proposing raising the rate to $41. (He explained that seasonal specials sometimes bring the cost of golf below the current "rack rate.") For those who golf without a cart, the rate would go from $24 to $26.

McCarley pointed out that the new rates would take Antelope Hills to its pre-May 2010 level.

After an evaluation in early 2010, the course reduced its rates, in part because of the state of the economy.

"The thinking at that time was if we lower the rates, more people will come play," McCarley told the council this week. "We could say that didn't work."

Rather than going up, the number of rounds dropped again - from 64,314 in fiscal year 2010 to 61,867 in fiscal year 2011.

That, in turn, resulted in less revenue for the golf course, which already was several million dollars in debt to the city's general fund.

With a projection of 60,000 rounds of golf in the coming fiscal year, McCarley said the new greens and cart fees would bring in an additional $154,000.

Other changes, such as a 5 percent increase in food prices at the course's Manzanita Grille restaurant, and annual passes for couples, also is estimated to bring in extra revenue, taking the total projected increase to $233,000.

Earlier this year, the golf course also began charging sales tax, McCarley said, which amounts to an additional $100,000 in revenue.

Councilman Jim Lamerson maintained that the proposed increases likely would not substantially affect the number of rounds at Antelope Hills.

"Those people who want to play golf are going to play golf," he said. "Two dollars isn't going to make a difference."

The council agreed to put the rate increase on the agenda for March 20. The special meeting likely will include a vote on the increases.

If approved, McCarley suggested that the new rates go into effect on April 23 - a move that he said could have a positive impact on the golf course's budget for the current fiscal year, which ends on June 30.

While the council members appeared receptive to the proposed rate increases, some divergent opinions emerged over the future of Antelope Hills.

For instance, Councilman Steve Blair maintained that the city should re-evaluate its current policy of viewing Antelope Hills as an "enterprise fund" that must be self-sufficient.

"I feel pretty strongly in the fact that the enterprise fund doesn't work," Blair said, noting that other city services, such as ball fields and the public library, come nowhere close to paying for themselves.

Ball fields use city water, Blair said, but the city does not expect league or tournament play to cover those costs.

"We're asking the golf course to have a return on the investment," Blair said. "I think this council needs to make a policy decision."

Meanwhile, Blair said the city should look into privatizing the golf course's restaurant and its old clubhouse (Centennial Center).

And Councilman Charlie Arnold suggested that any future policy discussion should include the question of whether the city should be in the golf business at all.

Although acknowledging that the golf course draws visitors to Prescott, Arnold said the city should consider the possibility of issuing a request for proposals (RFP) to seek firms that might be interested in taking over management of the golf course.

He added that the city also should work to quantify the economic impact the golf course has on the community.

Along with the March 20 discussion of rates, council members requested a workshop in the coming weeks to discuss the bigger picture of the golf course's future.