Toronto Star

City tees up review of its local golf courses

Facilities don’t generate enough revenue to cover operating costs, report says


The city of Toronto is considerin­g a review of its municipal golf courses as it struggles with rising maintenanc­e costs and declining interest in the sport.

In a recent report, the city’s parks division proposed hiring an external consultant to examine industry trends and come up with recommenda­tions that will allow the city “to determine the best model for golf service delivery” for the next 20 years.

The proposed review would be completed by early 2019, the report said.

Toronto owns seven golf courses, two of which it leases out to private operators. The city manages the other five courses, but contracts out minor operations, such as ticket sales, cart rentals, pro shops and food sales.

The city-managed golf courses typically bring in $4.5 million to $5 million per year — not enough to recoup the costs of running them, the report said.

“Including overhead expenses, the golf operations incur a net loss on an annual basis,” the report notes.

The losses are likely to continue in the years to come.

Toronto’s 2018-2026 capital plan has identified $9.7 million in improvemen­ts needed for municipal golf courses, including upgrades to building roofs and windows, sanitary fixtures, pavement, mechanical and electrical systems and irrigation.

Municipal courses have stiff competitio­n for the attention of local golfers.

There are more than 100 courses open to members of the public in the Greater Toronto Area, plus several private clubs, the Parks reports said, and the city’s courses have experience­d a marked decline in use.

The number of rounds played at municipal golf courses decreased by about 15 per cent between 2007 and 2016, from 187,000 to 157,965.

The proposal to conduct a review will be considered by a city’s government management committee on Jan. 11, and then go to city council on Jan. 31.

“The point of the report going to committee is to get the extension for the contracts and to let council know that we will be undertakin­g the review,” city spokespers­on Jane Arbour said, adding that no decisions will be made until the review is over.

University of Toronto political science professor Margaret Kohn, who specialize­s in issues of urbanism and public space, said Toronto city staff should ask themselves two questions when considerin­g the future of this public land: Does the land serve citizens who are unlikely to have easy access to public recreation space? And can the space be used for multiple purposes?

“Open spaces or recreation­al spaces are best when they can be used by different users in different ways,” she said. “Golf courses, as I understand it, are not open to alternativ­e uses.”

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