In 2014, then Mayor Hiremath and Councilmembers Hornat, Snider and Waters voted to purchase the El Conquistador Country Club, Golf and Tennis facilities from their largest campaign contributor (HSL Properties). This vote took place two weeks after residents learned about the deal.
They then voted to approve a half cent sales tax increase to cover all costs associated with the facilities. The golf course purchase and tax contributed to a failed recall attempt of Mayor Hiremath and the aforementioned councilmembers in 2015.
The half cent sales tax revenue was funneled into a newly created Community Center Fund and treated as revenue. However, the roughly $2 Million in annual sales tax revenue did not cover the expenditures nor the capital improvements promised by the Town.
During the 2018 Town Council campaign, mayoral candidate Joe Winfield committed to reduce future golf losses. The incumbent Mayor Hiremath and the three incumbent councilmembers lost their reelection bid. After the Winfield slate was sworn into office, a study session was held that revealed there were over $10,000,000 in Troon managed golf and restaurant losses through FY 18/19.
Council directed the then 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.
Town Manager Jacobs, in concert with Troon, developed a plan for golf that included the following elements to improve performance:
§ 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 (2022 and 2023)
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. The plan 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 only the two 18-hole golf courses.
In May 2020, the Town selected Billy Casper Golf (renamed Indigo Golf Partners) to operate Town golf operations in a competitive bid process.
HSL was offered the option to lease back the 9-hole Pusch Ridge course in October 2020 which they declined.
In November 2020, the Town Council voted for the Town Manager & Town Attorney to initiate discussions with HSL and the HOAs surrounding the Pusch Ridge Golf Course to “negotiate an acceptable plan for the maintenance and use of that course subject to Council approval.”
With that input, Staff determined that the two most feasible options were to 1) continue golf on the property from November through May or 2) permanently convert it back to natural, desert open space for passive recreation use.
Council ultimately voted to keep Pusch Ridge Golf open for three years and then reevaluate the situation. In addition to the financial challenge of the short 6.5 month season, the course uses potable/drinking water for irrigation. Arizona is in a 20+ year drought with upcoming water reductions looming.
The changes implemented in 2020 significantly improved the Town’s golf financials. Year-end sales tax support for golf operations was not needed for FY 21/22 and is not anticipated for FY 22/23.
SEE ARCHIVES, GOLF HISTORY for Nat'l Golf Foundation Detail/Summary Reports and more information