An editorial from AnnArbor.Com (the twice a week rag and online blight that passes for a daily newspaper in Ann Arbor) says that the City of Ann Arbor should give up on the Huron Hills golf course:
The city runs other recreational facilities at a loss, but swimming pools or community centers are different, in that those opportunities wouldn’t exist if the city didn’t provide them. Not so with golf. If the city golf courses were making money and the revenue were used to help fund other recreation, that would be ideal. But as money-losers, they only add to the city’s overall budget deficit.
If the city really thinks golf is something it ought to be offering its residents, and can justify losing money on it, then at the very least it should minimize the loss. Looking back to the 2007 consulting report, it’s clear that Leslie Park – named the state’s best municipal golf course by Golf Digest – is the more viable option.
Huron Hills, meanwhile, still has all the liabilities cited in the 2007 report, and of greater concern, the city’s own projections are that Huron Hills will lose more money in 2014 and 2015 than it is losing today, which is the wrong direction to be headed in. We don’t see a good case here for continuing to operate Huron Hills, and closing it would give the city a better opportunity to make a go of Leslie Park.
Leslie Park is the other Ann Arbor city course, and it’s a much more difficult, and upscale course. Huron Hills is a small, unassuming track that’s friendly to beginners, children and other not-so-serious golfers. Thus, if it’s about serving the public with “opportunities that wouldn’t exist if the city didn’t provide them,” the thing to do is to sell Leslie Park and keep Huron Hills Open. There are plenty of difficult, upscale courses in the Ann Arbor area that match the demographics and qualities of Leslie Park. There are absolutely no accessible courses for beginners, juniors and similar players.
AnnArbor.Com also is wrong about the swimming pools. There are more than a few non-city pools in the area, just as there are more than a few non-city golf courses. Further, if there is a shortage of privately operated pools, that’s only because the city makes it impossible for them to compete by providing taxpayer subsidized city pools. If the city got out of the pool business, more private pools would open. I’ll make the same argument about city tennis courts, community meeting rooms and other recreational programs. Why does Ann Arbor need to provide summer programs for kids? There literally dozens of summer programs provided by private operators and more would appear without tax payer subsidized competition.
Following the AnnArbor.Com logic, the city should shut down its money losing pool, tennis and recreation facilities and concentrate on those that bring in cash. Which is, to say, probably none of them.
My recommendation: Privatize Leslie Park for a share of the profits, which then can be used to subsidize (as other facilities are) Huron Hills to provide opportunities not otherwise available.