City officials are holding a public meeting Tuesday morning to discuss possible funding options for its public golf courses.
The meeting is at 9 a.m. at Page Belcher Golf Course, 6666 S. Union Ave.
The meeting comes less than two weeks after city leaders were pressed to explain why the upcoming Improve Our Tulsa renewal package does not include funding for city golf courses.
Gilcrease Museum and the Tulsa Zoo, meanwhile, would get $6 million each if the renewal package is approved by voters in November.
The city has four 18-hole courses, including two at Page Belcher and two at Mohawk Park Golf Course, 5223 E. 41st St. North.
During a public meeting on the Improve Our Tulsa II package last month, Mayor G.T. Bynum said the golf courses had not been a high enough priority to receive funding. The list of projects submitted for funding in the renewal package topped $2.1 billion, the mayor noted, but only 30% of the projects could be funded in the 6½-year, $639 million package.
“Are we going to have kids using unsafe playground equipment or fire trucks that are breaking down so that we can fix up golf courses?” Bynum told the Tulsa World after his presentation that night. “It isn’t as high a priority as those things, and that is why it is not in the program.”
At a later Improve Our Tulsa public meeting, the mayor said he believed golf advocates had misunderstood the city’s position. The renewal package includes approximately $15 million for the Park and Recreation Department to use for general facility improvements, some of which could potentially go to the city’s golf courses.
“I think because the golf course folks didn’t see it as a line item, they thought the golf courses were totally excluded, and that is not the case,” Bynum said.
City Councilor Jeannie Cue helped arrange the public meeting.
“I’m having it because I have a lot of residents and golfers that are concerned about the conditions of the golf courses, and we want to help bring that to the city’s attention,” Cue said.
Many people in the community can’t afford to play golf at a private course, Cue said, so it is important for the city to keep its courses in good shape.
“This is their activity; this allows them to get exercise and socialize by being at our city golf course,” she said.
The city’s golf courses have been operated and managed by Billy Casper Golf since 2008. In fiscal year 2017, the golf courses lost approximately $170,000 on revenues of $2.8 million. In 2018, the golf courses lost approximately $252,000 on revenues of nearly $2.6 million.
In the city’s current fiscal year budget — which is separate from the proposed Improve Our Tulsa renewal package — the city is providing the golf courses $167,000 in operational and short-term capital funding.
The city has allocated $3.29 million for Gilcrease Museum, $1.5 million for the Performing Arts Center and $6.4 million for the Tulsa Zoo.
Figures provided by the city to Billy Casper Golf show the city subsidizes its golf courses at a much lower level than it does some of its other cultural and recreation venues.
The report, which looks at fiscal year 2019 numbers, found that the city provided a subsidy of $1.04 for each round of golf. The subsidy was $1.34 for each PAC visitor and $8.89 for each visitor to the Tulsa Zoo.
The subsidy for each Gilcrease Museum visitor was by far the highest at $36.32, according to the report.
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