The Salt Lake City Council will debate on Tuesday a roughly 228 percent increase in golf fees that some officials said Thursday is tailored to "present the illusion" golfers will get a bargain for a golf round.
The proposed fee change, the subject of a public hearing scheduled Tuesday at 6:40 p.m. in City Hall, 324 S. State, includes raising senior passes from $175 a season to $400 a season if passes are purchased before March 1.Passes bought after that date would cost $500 under the proposal, agreed upon by several City Council members at a Committee of the Whole meeting Thursday.
That way, senior citizens and other pass holders will be presented with the "illusion it's a deal," said Parks Director John Gust.
"I agree with that," said City Councilwoman Roselyn Kirk, "I think it's important that they're getting the illusion it's a deal."
Regular passes would be increased from $300 to $500, under the proposal.
Additionally, the proposal eliminates use of golf coupons, which City Council Chairman W.M. "Willie" Stoler said are used by some senior citizens "who don't know if they're gonna make it through the season."
The current fee structure won't meet projected costs of maintaining the city's six golf courses. Salt Lake City has the second largest number of municipal golf courses west of the Mississippi River.
Additionally, modern recreation philosophy is changing to reflect a need for users to pay for what they use, Gust said. "Pay for play is now the new tune played in recreation."
And operating courses is growing more costly. Costs per round on Salt Lake courses average $4.76 per round while fees generate only $3.96 per round, a deficit a department audit recommended be made up by increasing fees.
"It (golf) is not a poor man's game," said Scott Gardener, city recreation director.
The proposal, recommended in the annual audit of the city's Parks and Recreation Department, is expected to raise the ire of golfers who, the last time the council raised fees, harangued city officials at a public hearing.
Some council members complained Thursday they already have been confronted by angry constituent golfers. Kirk said she doesn't believe some golfers who called her to say they bought passes but golfed very little at some courses. After viewing statistics showing many pass holders golf prolifically at popular parks, Kirk told the council "they lie to me."
The city is building two new golf courses - one at the airport and an addition at Mountain Dell Golf Course. The golf course enterprise fund, fueled by golf fees, must make its first $321,000 bond payment this year for the courses.
Fee increases are expected to meet the bond payments as well as eliminate subsidy of senior citizens passes by other regular pass holders who pay $300 yearly for an average 130 rounds of golf, officials said.