Municipal Golf Course holes out?

City Hall

City Hall Municipal Golf Course
Wintery weather did not stop golf talk at Council Monday Night.

THUNDER BAY – Municipal Golf Course was discussed at City Hall last night. Council decided that Municipal Golf Course will be closed at the end of the golf season. Municipal Golf Course has been in the sights of Council for possible closure several times over the past years. At the heart of the debate is saving money. In addition is an argument over what the City of Thunder Bay should be offering in terms of recreational opportunities.

Debated last night was a report from a committee tasked with coming up with solutions. The committee was suggesting reducing green fees at Municipal to encourage more golfers to use the facility. In addition was a plan to increase marketing of the golf course. 

Both proposals were shot down.

Andrew Foulds 2013 City Budget
Andrew Foulds

“Those who state this will be a huge savings or reduction in taxes are being intellectually dishonest,” comments Current River Councillor Andrew Foulds. “The third party analysis states that the annual savings of closing Municipal on the operational side is $50,000 a year. That costs each household a dollar a year in savings. One has to question are we really getting value after the millions of dollars have been invested in creating and maintaining this facility”.

In a 7-4 vote, Council has decided that this will be the last season for the Municipal Golf Course. 

“If I had the chance to talk directly to the golfers, the golfers at Municipal, golfers who grew up at Municipal, youth and senior golfers and all those who supported Municipal, I would say I am so sorry,” states Foulds. “I am sorry that I wasn’t more convincing, I am sorry I wasn’t able to persuade my colleagues that this is a worthy asset and a worthy attempt for citizens of this city, I am sorry I didn’t do better. Please enjoy as best you can this summer at Municipal”.

Is there a solution?

Perhaps Municipal Golf Course’s fate will be that it will be sold, converted to a seniors complex with condos or housing around the course. The property has repeatedly come before Council for debate in the past. Over the past seven years that suggestion has continued to surface with the property.

Municipal Golf Course could serve as a great training facility for junior golfers, as well as a place that seniors could continue to play. 

Maybe it is time for a public / private partnership where the City finds a partner in the private sector? The City is setting the pattern and engaging in more and more of these kinds of partnerships. Thunder Bay could lease the golf course and lands around it owned by the city to a partner who would be able to operate the course. 

Long-terms leases work. In Alberta, the Tsuu T’ina Nation located just southwest of Calgary purchased land near Bragg Creek. The First Nation build Redwood Meadows Golf and Country Club. Land for homes around the golf course were leased to people on a 99 year lease. The First Nation keeps the land, and the leaseholder benefits as does the First Nation.

Redwood Meadows

It must be said that Municipal Golf Course in Thunder Bay is not the world class course that Redwood Meadows offers. However the concept could offer solutions that would allow all sides to win.

Municipal Golf Course could serve as a ‘feeder course’ offering instruction and lessons for youth and offering solid Junior Golf camps and opportunities. That would benefit both the public courses and private courses in the area.

Properly done, it could be combined by the Tourism Department in Thunder Bay by offering Youth Golf Camps in addition to the golf vacations for tourists. Parents could enjoy golf and shopping opportunities in the city and region, as their children could be in Golf Camps. 

At Redwood Meadows in Alberta, when the course was opening, the First Nation brought in Lee Trevino who ran golf camps for First Nations members. That kind of attitude and approach generated and continues to generate some solid golfers. 

One of the missing components in golf that perhaps Council is missing is that the rules of golf and the etiquette help young people in building the solid social skills sets to be better citizens.

James Murray