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Sarasota Thursday, Aug. 22, 2019 6 months ago

Report considers downsizing Bobby Jones

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Facing significant expenses, officials are weighing the possibility of shrinking the 45-hole golf course.
by: David Conway Deputy Managing Editor

Reducing the size of Bobby Jones Golf Club won’t eliminate the prospect of future budget deficits for the city-owned course, but it could mean reducing the expenses associated with financing a major renovation project, according to a consultant’s report.

The City Commission has scheduled a meeting Aug. 26 to discuss the future of Bobby Jones. Although the commission previously endorsed a full renovation of the 45-hole course, with construction set to begin in spring 2020, officials have not finalized the scope of the work to be undertaken on the 300-acre property.

In July, the commission signaled a willingness to reconsider its plans for Bobby Jones. If the city were to pursue a $17.5 million project improving all 45 holes, a report from the National Golf Foundation estimated the city would be spending between $800,000 and $1.57 million annually to fund the course over more than a decade.

At a July 9 special meeting, commissioners asked for the National Golf Foundation to produce new projections for the golf course if it were scaled down to 27 or 18 holes. City Manager Tom Barwin distributed the new report to commissioners Aug. 16. The consultant concluded the city would spend, on average, about $480,000 less annually in the first seven years after re-opening Bobby Jones if it pursues a 27-hole plan rather than the 45-hole option.

The course would still fail to generate enough revenue to cover the costs associated with a renovation project, the report states. Accounting for debt service payments, the report projects a 27-hole Bobby Jones would lose $857,800 in the first year after reopening. Projected losses fluctuate between $569,000 and $595,200 each year between 2023 and 2026.

In conjunction with potentially scaling down the size of the golf course, the Conservation Foundation of the Gulf Coast has expressed an interest in partnering with the city to ensure the property remains public open space in perpetuity.

Monday’s meeting will include a presentation on both the updated business plan and the potential for a conservation partnership.

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