Will this MLB expansion franchise end up killing a city’s municipal golf courses?

Will this MLB expansion franchise end up killing a city’s municipal golf courses?

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As one of the leading candidates for Major League Baseball expansion, the city of Portland, Oregon, has been plotting and planning, trying to come up with a site to build a new stadium that works for everyone.

MLB is expected to bring two more long-overdue franchises into the big leagues while also necessitating the creation of eight new minor-league teams around the country.

Lobbying has already begun in earnest for cities like Nashville, Charlotte, Salt Lake City and Montreal, meaning the stadium site might be an important factor in swaying the league to adding another franchise to the Pacific Northwest, which would accompany the Seattle Mariners.

But a group leading the charge to get baseball in Portland has set its eyes on a specific golf property for a future stadium, and the ramifications could be costly.

The Portland Diamond Project is hoping to purchase the RedTail Golf Center in Beaverton, Oregon, with eyes on developing not only an MLB stadium, but also developing an entertainment district in the area.

According to a story at Oregon Public Broadcasting, however, pulling RedTail from a five-course chain owned by the city of Portland could bring the region’s entire golf program crumbling down.

RedTail was built in 1966 on a former farm and then was redesigned into a 7,100-yard championship course in 1999. It includes a covered, lighted driving range and the course is one of the most popular in the region, offering a quality experience for a reasonable price.

More: Golfweek’s Best top public and private courses in Oregon

It’s also the most profitable of the city’s courses.

According to a story at OPB.org:

Established in 1918, Portland’s golf program is self-funding, relying on fees collected from rounds of golf, concessions and stores at each course to fund the program’s expenses, all without taxpayer assistance.

RedTail, the committee argued, plays an important role in that ecosystem.

“Without RedTail subsidizing the rest of the system, the golf program would need significantly higher greens fees, maintenance cuts, and a new taxpayer funding source to survive,” the committee members wrote.

Golf Advisory Committee chair Tom Williams said RedTail has a popular driving range and classes that aren’t available at every course, making it very profitable for the entire system.

The city estimates that the golf program will earn about $512,000 in profit this fiscal year and $15 million in total revenue, according to budgets obtained by OPB. By comparison, RedTail is projected to earn $670,000 in profit alone.

Oregon, it should be noted, has long been a golf trendsetter, well before the success of Bandon Dunes on the state’s western coast.

For example, Oregon was the first state to implement an Environmental Stewardship Guideline (best management practices) for golf courses all the way back in 1999. It’s now a national program administered by the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America (GCSAA) and Environmental Institute for Golf (EIFG) and is supported in part by the USGA in partnership with the PGA Tour.

But in 2019, the city’s courses need a significant bailout to survive, although the pandemic has helped to right the ship financially. However, pulling RedTail’s lucrative balance sheet from the system could lend itself to a downward spiral, one in which the city can no longer afford to keep the other four courses.

And green fees are considerably less expensive at the muni chain, with RedTail’s daily rate always under $50 and typically closer to $25.

“Many golfers in this region begin their golfing journey on city of Portland golf courses, because they are the most welcoming to new golfers and they are the most affordable,” Williams told OPB.

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