Thoughts on spending $34+ million on Boca’s public golf course

Late yesterday, May 8, 2017, the City of Boca Raton and the Greater Boca Raton Beach & Park District sat down to discuss what to do with a closed private golf course in the Boca Teeca area of Boca Raton. I have talked to many residents about the purchase over the last three weeks and almost all said the price was excessive, especially when they learn that appraisals came in for millions less. But those “in the know” have told me that even though they don’t like it either, I am wasting my time going up against the purchase because it is basically a “done deal.” The residents of Boca Teeca want it and the City Council wants it, so it’s “done.”

The City of Boca Raton is a well-run city overall, though, like most everything, it is not perfect. Members of the City Council are looking to enhance the city at every turn which is their job. But does that include being a bank? If the Beach & Park District wants to buy the golf course, let them get their own financing. Oh, that’s right, they can’t. So, the city should bow out and not be in the banking business.

The privately owned golf course closed the same reason golf courses across the country are closing, fewer people are playing golf, and the situation is not getting better, it is getting worse. Why plunge $24 million to buy the property and another $10 million to improve the property when there is less interest in playing golf.

The last city council meeting I was at, there was a big to-do and proclamation about conserving water. Adding a golf course to city limits is not water conservation.

I guess it comes down to the philosophy of whether governments should be in the golf business and if so, how much are the taxpayers willing to pay each year for the maintenance of that golf course? Although the Beach & Park District presented they would likely make a $1.95 million profit each year, the City of Boca Raton’s western golf course lost just shy of $500,000 last year. Rarely, if ever, do government-run golf courses make a profit. It is hard enough to do in the private sector, which is why this course was closed. Even the famed Arnold Palmer Golf Managment company couldn’t make it work, but apparently, those on City Council and Beach & Park District know better or are willing to roll the dice. We’ll see how it plays out.

NOTE: This post was mentioned in the Palm Beach Free Press.

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