Golf Course

Tamarac golf course thrives under city ownership

It’s been a year since golf returned to the Colony West golf course – and City Hall is calling the shots.

Although taxpayers are spending big money just to keep the game going – upward of half a million dollars so far – city officials say it’s money well spent.

The city purchased the 262-acre course in December 2011, paying $3 million for the land and another $300,000 in closing costs and brokerage fees. It then leased it back to the family that had owned it for decades. But the family said the deal wasn’t profitable. The course closed last year, and the city hired Billy Casper Golf to manage it. The taxpayer-subsidized course re-opened Dec. 15, 2013.

Since then, more than 40,000 rounds of golf have been played. “It’s exceeded my expectations,” said general manager Tony Harris.

But the cost of the land was just the beginning. The city has ongoing expenses to keep it running.

In the last year, Tamarac spent more than $839,000 on items like carpet installation, new air conditioning units, new gates and golf cart charging stations. There were also new beverage carts to buy and various repairs to be completed.

The city spent another $946,502 on new golf carts and maintenance equipment which are leased back to Billy Casper Golf. So far it has recouped $66,930 through the lease agreement.

In addition, the city has agreed to pay a management fee of $497,000 over a 5-year period to Billy Casper.

“We essentially started a new business a year ago, and the costs associated with capital outlay reflect this,” said city spokeswoman Elise Boston. “It’s an investment with payback over the long term.”

The city has recouped more than $1.2 million in revenues for items such as food and beverage sales, golf cart rentals, pro shop sales and green fees.

But profit was never the point.

“Let’s remember why the city purchased Colony West: It was a critical decision to preserve green space for the 18 communities that surround the courses and for the city as a whole,” Boston said. “It was never viewed as a way to make money.”

She said since the city’s purchase, the golf courses have increased in value, and research indicates home prices bordering a course increase as well.

“The community feedback has been overwhelmingly positive and the city’s investment seems to be paying off,” Boston said.

Some city residents are pleased Tamarac took on the project.

“I don’t want that area developed,” said Donna Friscia, president of Plum Harbor, a nearby neighborhood. While Friscia doesn’t have a fairway view, some of her neighbors do. “I don’t know how people in the other side of Tamarac feel, but I’m not opposed for [the city] to try to turn it around and let it at least pay for itself,” she said.

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