By Mark Carlisle
Golfers hoping to get in a quick nine holes at Glendale’s Glen Lakes Golf Course better do it soon.
The city-owned course has reopened for the winter but no longer. Glendale City Council is positioned to vote later this month to officially close the course at 55th and Northern avenues. During Council meeting Tuesday, Nov. 30, a majority of Council supported closing the course, but the official vote won’t be taken until Tuesday, Dec. 11.
The course reopened at 7 a.m. Saturday — nearly a month after it closed when the course’s two main buildings were deemed unsafe by the city’s building safety official. City Council’s vote Dec. 12, indicating an intent to close the course and sell the property, will initiate a 90-day notice in the city’s contract with the course’s operator. This would put the course’s closing day Monday, March 11.
Despite a consensus to close the course long-term, Council chose to re-open it for the winter because the grounds need to be managed either way, and, due to revenue from the course’s busy season in the winter, it costs the city slightly less to operate the golf course for 90 days than it does to maintain the property for 90 days.
Without repairs to its clubhouse building and maintenance building, the course’s clubhouse will operate out of a rented RV and a shade structure will be built for maintenance supplies.
Each of the five members who supported permanently closing the course said they did so regrettably, but that it wasn’t feasible for the city to spend millions — at least $3.8 million by the lowest estimate — on capital costs to restore a course that regularly operates at a loss.
They sympathized with residents, some of which were in the audience of the Council meeting Tuesday, Nov. 30, who fought for the course, including a group that garnered 1,300 petition signatures in support of keeping the course.
Council also urged to work with those residents and other to find the best use for the property moving forward. Each council member emphasized the importance of public input on the matter.
City Manager Kevin Phelps also said that, while Council will vote this month to indicate an intent to sell the course, there should be a “lengthy public process” before the property is official put up for sale.
Many residents who supported Glen Lakes have said that if it were closed, they would want to see some green space preserved on the site.
A staff rendering in an October meeting showed houses on the property, surrounded by a narrow park encircling the property on three sides.
Sahuaro District Councilman Ray Malnar stressed that the city should not come to a decision on the next use for the property until the public has been heard.
“I think we need to engage the community in where we go with this property and that we don’t say, ‘This is going to be a housing development.’ That we don’t say that, but we say, ‘Let’s talk about it. Let’s come up with a solution that everybody can be happy with and that is economically feasible for the city of Glendale,’” Mr. Malnar said.
City staff’s suggestion in past meetings was for profits from a land sale for much-needed improvements to parks around the city.
Under that option, staff also suggested nine of the 44 acres not be sold and turned into a regional park. Another option was for the city to keep the entire property and turn it into a regional park, but there was more support on Council for selling the property with a portion saved for a smaller park.
Who buys the property and what they do with it will be determined after a lengthy process of public input and Council discussion on the topic.
The course operator, Golf Maintenance Solutions, would have been paid $18,750 for the 90-day notice period whether or not the course was re-opened. The city would also need to pay $42,000 to restore the electricity to the course’s irrigation system whether or not it re-opened and pay $3,126 for water over the 90 days.
The RV ($12,850), maintenance equipment ($11,250), shade structure for the maintenance equipment ($17,680) and fencing costs ($2,500) total $44,280 in expenses needed to re-open the course that would not be needed if the course did not re-open for the winter.
However, the city would need to pay $30,111 to have the grass mowed — an expense covered by Golf Maintenance Solutions with the course open — had the course stayed closed over the winter.
That, combined with a projected $19,369 in profit for the course, makes it an estimated $5,200 cheaper for the city to operate that course for three months rather than keep it closed.
Mayor Jerry Weiers, Vice Mayor Lauren Tolmachoff of the Cholla District, Mr. Malnar, Cactus District Councilman Ian Hugh and Yucca District Councilwoman Joyce Clark each supported closing the course permanently.
In addition to the millions in one-time capital cost and continued operational loss to the city, Ms. Tolmachoff pointed out the city owns another nine-hole golf course, Desert Mirage Golf Course, five and half miles west of Glen Lakes.
Ms. Clark also noted, as have council members in past meetings, the good money gained from a land sale could do to parks across the city.
Ocotillo District Councilman Jamie Aldama and Councilman Bart Turner of the Barrel District, which includes Glen Lakes, supported paying to keep the course open long-term.
Mr. Turner urged his fellow council members to view the course’s annual loss in operational costs like the costs of maintaining parks and other open space in the city.
He also argued that the capital cost needed to restore Glen Lakes was owed the course after the city neglected routine upgrades over decades.
Mr. Aldama thought the city was obligated to fund its assets.
“You deserve to have dollars spent in assets that belong to you,” he said. “…I’m tired of our assets being closed because we simply walk away from them.”
He also warned other city assets could be on the chopping block soon, citing when the city closed the swimming pool at O’Neil Park.
“Yesterday O’Neil Park, today Glen Lakes, tomorrow, I don’t know, folks.”