Alameda golf course needs some TLC

January 23, 2008 7:48:13 PM PST
In Alameda, they are suffering through a classic dilemma for American cities with limited budgets. It involves a gem of a golf course that needs a little TLC. But how?

Most of the time, when golfers play, it's them against themselves and the course.

However, at the Chuck Corica Golf Complex in Alameda, there's a twist to that format. They are not battling the course so much as the city that owns and runs it.

"They're destroying the goose that laid the golden egg," says Ray Gaul, golfer.

"Well, what we want them to do is make the golf course the way it used to be," says Bill Schmitz, golfer.

The golfers are talking about a facility that has been a crown jewel of Alameda recreation for eight decades. It has 45 holes and a driving range that have seen better times.

"We're declining. Our rounds are going down. And that's just a simple fact. We have more competition, fewer golfers, and those revenues are going to fall," says Lisa Goldman, Deputy City Manager.

But numbers are a matter of interpretation. According to the city, this complex lost $250,000 dollars last year. However, that's after it generated and paid the city close to a million dollars.

"This amounts to a tax on people in Alameda who play golf," says Larry Stewart, golfer.

"We are asking for what we think we deserve from what the city has taken away the past twelve years," says Jane Sullwold, golfer.

According to a study commissioned by Alameda, the place needs $10 million dollars worth of work to set it right. That's a lot of cash in a time and city with so many other pressing needs. It's a common problem for many municipal courses, these days.

"We simply don't have the money. And the more this course deteriorates, the more likely our rounds will go down. People don't want to play on a course that is not gorgeous," says Lisa Goldman, Deputy City Manager.

Alameda wants an outside operator to come in, make improvements, and lease the course. Alameda players call that a short-sighted move. For starters, they worry that outsiders would replace city employees and hire a new staff at lower wages.

"It matters because we are losing control of something that has been in this city for 80 years," says Jane Sullwold, golfer.

"We can run this course as well as any company they bring in. An operator isn't coming in here because he thinks he's going to lose money," says Bill Schmitz, golfer.

So, the players want a loan of $2 million dollars and a note from the city to renovate the clubhouse and the course. They want to attract more business to help the complex fund itself.

So far, Alameda is listening, but wary.

"We would love to be able to invest in this course, but we don't have any money," says Goldman.

"If you don't put something back into an asset, it is going to crumble," says Ray Gaul, golfer.

The city's decision process will take about one year. In the meantime, play on.

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