SALT LAKE CITY — Playing the Jordan River par-3 golf course may be free next year.
Then again, there would only be two holes to play.
Salt Lake City leaders are contemplating closing much of the Jordan River course, keeping only hole Nos. 1 and 2 and the short-game practice area, as a way to save money in the city's golf budget.
As a par-3 course, Jordan River has been a drain on the city budget to the tune of $68,000 per year over the past five years. The course averages a little more than 12,000 rounds played per year — a total that would need to increase 80 percent in order for the course to break even.
And that isn't going to happen, city leaders said, especially since green fees at all city courses were raised in January.
City Council Chairman Soren Simonsen has regularly raised the question of closing Jordan River because of its burden on the city's golf budget. The city's golf program operates as an enterprise fund, meaning it's self-sustaining and not subsidized by taxpayer funds.
Losses at Jordan River must be made up by the city's other eight courses.
"(Jordan River) has been and continues to be a money-losing proposition," Simonsen said. "When we're trying to generate revenue to address a wide range of needs, putting (money) into golf courses that constantly are not paying for themselves has been a challenge."
The city's golf budget proposes to keep the course open through this season, as well as to maintain the course — water and mow the grass, etc. — through June 2013. By then, city officials hope to know how the land will be used.
City officials are proposing to keep 5 acres of the course for free play and transfer the other 13 acres to the parks and lands program for a yet-to-be-determined use. If the free, short-game practice area is not well-received, those 5 acres would be converted for another open-space use.
Mayor Ralph Becker's Golf Citizen Task Force and the city's Golf Advisory Board are on board with the plan.
Over the next six months, city officials hope to gather feedback about what should be done with the Jordan River golf course. A public hearing on the issue has been scheduled for 7 p.m. June 5 at the City-County Building, 451 S. State.
Rick Graham, Salt Lake City's public services director, said the property must be used for public recreation. The land was obtained from the state in 2003, contingent upon it having a public use.
A group of disc golf players already have submitted to the city a petition signed by 180 people requesting that some of the space be used for disc golf.
The property previously served as a disc golf course when owned by the state. A fee was charged for play at the course, but it never really caught on, Graham said.
Today, "it's an activity that's growing in popularity," he said.
If there's a compelling public sentiment to keep the nine-hole, par-3 course open, that would present the city with a challenge, Graham said.
"We'd have to deal with that," he said. "Our sense is that with less that 12,000 rounds (played) a year and a deficit around $60,000 to $80,000 a year, for the golf fund, maybe that's not the most healthy thing to do."
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