The Fred Enke Golf Course's days are numbered.
The Tucson City Council voted unanimously Tuesday to shut down the course and turn it into a "natural passive park" at the end of June 2013 unless an outside management group is willing and able to step in and turn Enke, not to mention the rest of the struggling golf program, around.
Councilwoman Regina Romero said the problem in Tucson isn't hard to grasp.
"The issue is very simple. It's supply and demand," Romero said. "In Tucson, supply has outstripped demand."
Tucson's golf problems mirror the situation around the country, for both public and private courses. As interest in the sport has waned, so have rounds and revenues, leaving courses scrambling for solutions.
Many golf players and fans believed that if the city just waited a little longer, the economy would improve and people would head back to the links.
But Finance Director Kelly Gottschalk said the dramatic changes in city golf numbers - more than 100,000 fewer rounds were played on city courses in 2011 than in 2001 - are not going away.
"If we do nothing, the deficit will continue to grow," Gottschalk said.
So the City Manager's Office recommended closing Enke as part of several recommendations to revive the golf program, which has run up a $7.5 million deficit since 2004.
Because the Enke course, on East Irvington Road on the east side, received a federal grant when it opened in 1983, the city has to get permission from the National Park Service before closing it, which takes a minimum of six months. The course would remain open during that time. And even after it's closed, the city would still run the driving and practice facility.
Councilman Paul Cunningham said people deserve a chance to save the struggling course and successfully argued to include a provision to keep the course open until the end of the fiscal year.
"If this community on the east side sees this as a wake-up call to get this golf course back on track," he said, "then we need to give this golf course a chance."
Councilwoman Shirley Scott said demographics are changing in a way that can't be corrected by increased marketing.
She said more men are electing to pursue more "wholesome family" activities, such as bike riding, over golf so they can spend more time with their kids.
With that in mind, Scott said, the city needs to prioritize its limited resources. For Scott, that means fixing dilapidated playground equipment first before propping up a golf program.
Other parts of the proposal include drafting a plan to scale back El Rio Golf Course on the west side.
Plans call for some combination of a family golf learning center and park. El Rio can't be totally closed because the city has about six years remaining on a contract with the First Tee youth program.
Gottschalk said that while the cost of the proposed golf learning center, or even exactly what it will entail, isn't fully known at this time, it's possible the cost could be equal to what the city's been paying for El Rio.
Councilman Steve Kozachik said it sounds to him that the city isn't solving the problem, just shifting costs from one fund to another, and that isn't reassuring.
"I have this feeling in my gut that we don't quite know the net result of what we're getting into right now," Kozachik said.
Gottschalk acknowledged that decisions on the golf issue remain uncertain at this point but said more detailed plans for both courses will come over the next few weeks and months.
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"If this community on the east side sees this as a wake-up call to get this golf course back on track, then we need to give this golf course a chance."
Councilman Paul Cunningham
Contact reporter Darren DaRonco at 573-4243 or email@example.com