City subsidizes golf course, officials say, as residents plead to save Mulligans
Published: May 7, 2014 11:13AM
Updated: May 7, 2014 05:56PM
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Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune South Jordan residents held signs on Saturday to raise awareness with passing motorists as they work to save Mulligans Golf Course from development.

South Jordan • Jerry Grigsby doesn’t know the difference between a 5-iron and a driver. He’s not a golfer.

Still, he’s worried that losing Mulligans Golf and Game would be bad for South Jordan.

A resident of 20 years, Grigsby feels the 67-acre city-owned golf course, located near the Jordan River on 106th South, adds much needed open space to the city.

 “I enjoy the presence that it’s here,” Grigsby said. “I think it has a feeling of freedom and not being hemmed in. I think that affects us and our dispositions.”

 Grigsby was among more than 60 residents, some standing in the back, others sporting green “Save Mulligans” T-shirts attending the South Jordan City Council meeting Tuesday night to hear the financial plans for the golf complex.

 Sunil Naidu, South Jordan’s finance director, said previous reports on the financial state of Mulligans have been skewed because citizens have not looked at the subsidized portions of the golf course. Because Mulligans is an enterprise, it is treated like a business, but requires money from the city to offset losses. He said those numbers are not apparent from the auditor’s report.

 “There is a difference between a real business and Mulligans,” Naidu said. “If it were a stand-alone business, it’s not meeting its cash needs.”

 South Jordan purchased Mulligans in 2004 and funds the golf course costs, including water usage, administration and insurance, among other operating expenses, he said.

Councilman Steve Barnes said city subsidies are “substantial,” but not necessarily a “bad thing.”

 Naidu said the golf course ran a $247,233 deficit for 2013. And council members cited a 20 percent loss ratio for Mulligans in recent years.

 Mulligans reportedly raises user fees by approximately 50 cents every two years to pace inflation, but council members said increasing fees further won’t solve the deficit because fewer people will visit Mulligans as a result.

Cherie Campbell, a South Jordan resident of 24 years, suggested increasing city taxes to offset Mulligan’s debt and stop the council from replacing the golf course with high-density housing — a proposal she says “betrayed the trust of citizens.” She hopes to start a grass-roots initiative if Mulligans is threatened by talk of closure and development.

 Mayor David Alvord said no decision has been made about Mulligans and none is imminent.

“A decision as broad in scope as the future of Mulligans” depends on much more than finances, Alvord said. “The profitability for me isn’t the underlying question whether we keep a golf course.”

He hopes to post more detailed information about the city’s subsidization of Mulligans on the city website for the sake of transparency for citizens.

 Nancy Mehrer left the meeting feeling “revved up.” She said extra taxes are worth it to save the only green space she sees in the city.

 “I want Mulligans to stay,” Mehrer said. “It is a sad, sad day when that turns to concrete. The future isn’t looking too bright for South Jordan.”