Article Courtesy of The Orlando
By Lauren Ritchie
Published June 5, 2017
Residents at Baytree Villas want Tavares to buy an 18-hole golf course in their
development that closed last week without explanation and run it as a
Talk about really bad
ideas. Municipal golf courses typically cost taxpayers a
small fortune because of what analysts call “persistent
unprofitability.” This is one offer the city can afford to
Instead, city officials are going to crunch the numbers
involved in the course off Dead River Road and report back
to City Council members. There’s a second perfectly good
opportunity to just say no.
“Are you buying a governmental asset for all citizens to
benefit from and participate in the cost, or an asset for a
very few and then charge a reasonable fee?” City
Administrator John Drury asked. “That’s the balancing act.”
It’s not like Drury to miss a third obvious option: The city
buys the course and unceasingly pours money into it — until
the council gives up and sells it for whatever it can get.
Perhaps that is why the course closed Saturday — a
spokeswoman for the owners refused to provide any
information, and the real-estate agent handling the sale
said he wasn’t at liberty to talk about the course’s
Baytree Executive Golf Course closed Saturday, just as
the community's homeowner association asked the city of Tavares to buy
it for more than $1 million.
2003 — the year after the number of golfers in the U.S. peaked — folks who
played a now-defunct golf course at the Silver Lake Country Club behind
Lake-Sumter State College wanted Leesburg to buy it before it went belly up.
Even Leesburg, a city known for embracing just about every ill-conceived,
expensive idea that comes its way, took a pass.
Since the late 1990s, municipal golf courses have been tanking all over the
country — unless they are supported by taxpayer dollars. Let’s look at the
Ocala, 34 miles from Baytree, owns four of them — three at one location and one
at a second. Last year’s budget shows they had to be bailed out to the tune of
$777,481, and that’s just to break even, not to make money.
Mount Dora owns a golf club seven miles to the east of Tavares that is run by
the golf club with which the city contracts. The city gets either 5 percent of
the course’s profits or 5 percent of the amount of its utility bills. This year
it was $40,488, calculated off utility bills. Those who have played the course
rate its maintenance poorly, according to online reviews.
Baytree course owners declined to be interviewed or provide information, but
Drury said the owners would rather sell the property to developers than to any
buyer, including the city, who wants to run it as a course. Apparently, the 89
acres are worth more without the course because the city gave permission in the
early 1990s for 118 more homes on the land. The asking price is $1.18 million or
about $13,258 per acre.
The listing agent for the course, Rick Gonzalez, said four development groups
are researching the property and considering whether to purchase it. While they
are talking about developing it all, Gonzalez said he thinks there could be room
for a developer to build some houses and still keep nine holes of golf.
Drury suggested another compromise — three local homeowner associations in
developments close to Baytree could band together to buy and operate the course.
Of course, it’s much better when the city will just step up and buy it.
Unfortunately, Tavares would have to borrow, pay interest and then dump cash
into the operation to make it run efficiently. That would be OK if the city had
Otherwise, Tavares should run the other way. Too many cities are getting into
businesses that compete with private operations. Tavares has gone far enough in