TOWN OF ORO VALLEY GOLF 2020
The town golf courses have been a drain on Oro Valley since their acquisition in the spring of 2015. In FY 15/16 and FY 16/17, the courses lost $2.5 million annually. In FY 17/18, performance improved and the town/Troon golf partnership only lost $2 million. The performance improved again in FY 18/19, reducing losses to $1.7 million for the year.
The golf course purchase contributed to a failed recall of the incumbent Mayor Hiremath and three councilmembers (Hornat, Snider and Waters) in 2015. They ultimately lost their re-election bid and were removed from office in 2018. From the date of purchase through FY 18/19, Oro Valley lost well over $10,000,000 from Troon restaurant losses and golf.
The town’s newly elected mayor, Joe Winfield, committed to reduce future golf losses during his 2018 campaign. He directed the Town Manager, Mary Jacobs, to improve the golf operations or reduce the number of holes from 45 holes (two 18- hole courses and one 9-hole course] to a level consistent with the demand for town golf.
The Town Manager, in concert with Troon, then developed a plan for golf that included the following elements to improve performance:
- Reduce cart and machinery leases using Troon maintenance
- Exit town operation of the Overlook restaurant
- Transfer the 9 hole Pusch Ridge course to HSL
- Forecast future increases in membership and outside play
- Forecast a 10% increase in membership fees
- Open both 18 hole courses for outside play tee time reservations
- Invest to repair the irrigation systems on both 18 hole courses
- A $100,000 annual subsidy approved by the Canada Hills HOA Board
- Issue a request for proposal for a new golf operator with municipal course experience to operate the town courses starting in FY 20/21
The Town manager forecast/pro forma showed losses declining to $814,000 in FY20/21 and $700,000 in FY21/22. She committed to Council that these actions would reduce golf losses over $1 million by FY 21/22. You can view the proforma here. This would make golf losses comparable to town subsidies for other amenities, such as the Aquatic Center and Naranja Park.
In October 2019, the Town Council voted 6-1 to retain the two 18-hole golf courses. (Mayor Winfield’s 9/27 motion.)
During a Nov. 20, 2019, special council meeting, Council rejected the Town Manager’s proposal for a $3.2M bond for “community center repairs.” In a 4-3 split vote, they voted on a pay-as-you-go approach to funding its capital improvements, utilizing expected cash savings from the half-cent sales tax dedicated to the community center’s operations. Repairs on the 18-hole Conquistador course will begin in the summer of 2021, improvements and irrigation repairs on the 18-hole Cañada course will be done in 2022 and improvements to the community center and restaurant will be scheduled in 2023.
In May 2020, the Town selected Billy Casper Golf to operate Town golf operations in a competitive bid process. In addition to overseeing the course operations, they will work alongside capital improvements planned for the two courses.
HSL Properties, which owns the Hilton El Conquistador resort in Oro Valley, will operate the adjacent nine-hole Pusch Ridge course beginning October 1, 2020.