First the price went up. Then the grass dried up. Now the cash, and the city’s patience, have dried up, too.
That means the odds of Salt Lake City’s defunct Wingpointe golf course ever pitching out of an expensive bureaucratic bunker are as slim as a hole-in-one. On a Par 5.
The course has been closed since 2015 and has not been adequately maintained, despite more than $60,000 set aside last year to do just that. The City Council Tuesday said it was time to stop paying for a course that, in all likelihood, will never see a foursome again. It authorized a budget transfer to cover a final payment on a lease this year, but no more.
“I think it’s extremely unfortunate,” said Councilman Charlie Luke, the council’s vice chairman, who earlier supported efforts to keep golfers’ hopes alive for the course. He called for a straw poll vote Tuesday to put the council on record opposing continued payments on the land.
“Just looking at everything leading up to this, it would just be irresponsible in my opinion for the council to continue to fund something that there seems to be no hope of repairing or delivering on,” he said.
The Arthur Hills-designed links style course, south of Salt Lake City International Airport, opened in 1990. The airport bought the site in the 1970s and was leasing it to the city for $1 per year before the Federal Aviation Administration stepped in, in 2012, to insist the airport charge a fair-market rate for the property.
That led to an agreement under which the city, via its dedicated Golf Fund, would pay an increasing annual lease to the airport starting at $55,000 in 2014, rising to a full market-rate price of $150,000 next year.
Besides the lease payments, the City Council in 2016 authorized $67,000 to keep up watering and other minimal maintenance to prevent the course from reverting to its natural state.
But watering didn’t start until that June, and later, a leak was discovered in the course’s aging irrigation system. The course went without any maintenance over last winter. Now, it’s estimated it would cost close to $1 million to bring the course back and maintain it over the next two years. That makes finding a third-party to operate the course a long shot.
Mayor Jackie Biskupski’s administration has been working with U.S. Rep. Chris Stewart on getting the lease agreement amended, but “we aren’t seeing the movement in Washington,” said Chief of Staff Patrick Leary.
He said given the prohibitive restoration cost, plus the jump to a market-rate lease in 2018, the city needs to make a formal decision on the course by year’s tend.
But it looks like the scorecard is already in.
“I would characterize it as an unfortunate outcome for a lot of reasons,” Leary said. Given cost and governmental headwinds, however, “I don’t know that it was necessarily an unexpected outcome.”