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Wingpointe golf course near Salt Lake airport hits turbulence

Published May 3, 2012 11:08 am

Recreation • FAA's lease demand could put Salt Lake City's golf fund in the hole.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Like a sliced tee shot, rumors are flying through Salt Lake City's golf community that the links at Wingpointe will be closing.

Take a mulligan, it's not true. At least for now.

But a recent Federal Aviation Administration audit of Salt Lake City International Airport revealed that the land for the course, just south of the terminals, has been leased to Salt Lake City at no cost. The FAA now insists that the airport get "fair market value" for the property lease and that could provide a "challenge" for the city's golf fund, said Rick Graham, director of public services.

Salt Lake City's eight golf courses ( Mountain Dell has 36 holes) are not underwritten by the municipality's general fund and must support themselves. The annual budget of about $8 million is enough to keep them operating — barely.

"The golf fund pretty much operates on a break-even basis," Graham said. "Revenue generated just covers operating expenses."

But the city courses need about $20 million in deferred maintenance, he noted. "We are struggling to find funding for those projects."

A worst-case scenario for Wingpointe would be a dramatic jump in the lease, Graham said. "Once that information is produced and a value is determined, we will have to deal with it."

Mayor Ralph Becker met with federal transportation officials this week in Washington, D.C., in an effort to minimize the financial impact on the city's golf fund from a potential lease increase, said David Everitt, the mayor's chief of staff.

"We won't have to close down Wingpointe in the coming weeks," Everitt said. "But we don't know what the final decision will be on the lease."

An appraisal of the land for leasing will be conducted in the coming weeks, he said.

The topic surfaced recently with radio host Jeff Waters on his "Talkin' Golf" show on KFNZ 1320 AM.

In a Salt Lake Tribune interview, he lamented that there had been no public notice on a potential closure of Wingpointe. "They are considering closing a very valuable resource with no public input."

Wingpointe holds an important place among the area's golf courses for a number of reasons, including its design, said Bill Walker, executive director of the Utah Golf Association.

"Obviously, we hope it does not close," he said. "But if it were to close, it would have an impact on hundreds of golfers having to find a new home."

Beyond that, Wingpointe is a valuable asset to Salt Lake City and its visitors, he said. "It offers convenience for people coming in from out of town."

csmart@sltrib.com