Addition by subtraction is the way to save Municipal Golf Course, says longtime member Tony Stokaluk.
The well-known local golfer is convinced lowering fees at the city-owned golf course will bring more people back to the sport and generate the rounds necessary to lower the cost to taxpayers.
“That’s the only thing that’s going to make people come back, as far as I’m concerned,” said Stokaluk, a member of the city’s golf course committee, charged with making suggestions to increase revenue or cut cost to improve the courses’ bottom line.
The group, formed last year after council gave Municipal a one-year reprieve, having voted to close the 89-year-old Oliver Paipoonge facility, has taken a long, hard look at green fees and memberships, as well as overall costs.
A 2012 core business review report suggested the city could save taxpayers $100,000 a year or more by closing and selling Municipal.
According to a tentative fee scheduled released by Golf Thunder Bay, a 2013 triple adult membership valid at Municipal, Strathcona and Chapples golf courses, will cost $1,520.
The blended option, which includes an upfront payment and a set green-fee per round, is $704.
Eighteen-hole green fees at Municipal are set at $36, taxes included, for 2013, six dollars a round less expensive than the city’s other two courses. A nine-hole, 10-round punch card at Municipal is scheduled to cost $270, a savings of about $9 a round.
There's also an older adult option valid only at Municipal costs $990.
Owners of Northern Lights and Centennial golf courses are advertising an all-inclusive, $800 rate to play at the two privately owned courses this summer.
Dropping green fees at Municipal to $13 a round for nine holes and $20 for 18, as suggested by committee members, means the city would need to find an additional 4,276 green-fee rounds a year.
That’s about six full foursomes or 24 rounds a day, over a six-month season.
Over the past three seasons Municipal has averaged 7,379 green-fee rounds, the numbers rebounding slightly in 2012.
The city would also need to sell an extra 46 10-round punch cards.
Coun. Mar Bentz, a member of the committee, is concerned the lower prices would come at a significant cost to the private sector. He also doubts Municipal would be able to attract the number of golfers needed to make it work.
Mayor Keith Hobbs is reserving judgment on the fare structure proposed by committee members, who he said are committed to finding a way to keep Municipal open.
“Discussions have been lively and this is a very passionate issue for some members of the committee,” he said, reached via email Friday by Thunder Bay Television.
The matter is expected to return to the committee on April 10.
Fee changes aren’t the entire solution, Stokaluk said.
Cutting back on course maintenance is another way to bring the course closer to the break-even point.
“We’re trying to discuss whether we need as many people there as we have. It’s unfortunate, but (Municipal) is not in the greatest shape in the summertime because of a lack of water. We’re just trying to cut costs to keep Municipal viable to the public,” Stokaluk said Thursday.
City courses are staffed by union employees, and paid significantly more than workers at private operations, which Bentz said puts the city courses in an automatic hole off the blocks.
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