The Oro Valley Town Council voted 6-1 in favor of reopening the Pusch Ridge nine-hole golf course in November while making significant investments to the property over the next three to five years, during their meeting on Wednesday, Feb. 17.
The town also has the option to lease the course to a third-party property manager in the future under the new plan. HSL Properties had previously signed on to lease and manage the course last February but backed out last summer due to financial uncertainty surrounding the pandemic.
Oro Valley plans on operating the course seven days a week starting Nov. 1 to May 1, with green fees costing $25 per round during the first year.
Those fees are expected to increase by 2% during the second year and then by 3% each year for the remaining three years.
The council plans on investing $95,000 during the first year to replace the pump station’s motors, irrigation mains, valves and sprinkler heads while repairing damaged sections to the course’s golf cart path and other issues. Other repairs to be made to the property include a $75,000 cart path pavement preservation application in the third year, overhauling the course’s irrigation system at an estimated $1.2 million during the fourth year and investing another $150,000 in upgrades to the pro shop and cart storage in year five.
The assistant town manager estimates the course would use up to 45 million gallons of potable water annually.
Cornelson also said the course would be operating at a limited capacity and would not be able to generate revenues similar to other nearby courses until cart facility and other significant upgrades are made.
“Until the irrigation system is repaired, we would expect an increased cost of about $37,000 due to inefficiencies and other related repairs,” Cornelson said during last Wednesday’s meeting.
On the revenue side, the town estimates it will make approximately $165,000 in green and cart fees during the first year and expects that revenue stream to increase up to $180,000 by the fifth year. Pro shop sales and other golf-related revenues are expected to bring in an estimated $8,000 to $10,000 each year. Surrounding local homeowners associations have also agreed to invest $34,050 each year for five years to help return the nine-hole to its former glory.
The town’s total investment to the property is expected to range from $420,000 to $1.5 million, while it expects to collect revenues ranging from $207,000 to $223,000 over the five-year period.
Before the vote, council member Tim Bohen said he could not support reopening the Pusch Ridge nine-hole course because he doesn’t think it’s a responsible action for the town to take during this time.
“I just wanted to let the people know, at Pusch Ridge, I’ve walked their course a couple of times and I’ve talked to them and I have sympathy for their plight,” Bohen said during the meeting. “I really do believe as a responsible entity, we have to acknowledge the inventory that we already have that we don’t consume. That’s why I can’t support this.”
Mayor Joe Winfield said he could empathize with Bohen’s statement but recent metrics set by the town to monitor activity at Oro Valley’s other two courses— the Conquistador Course and the Canada Course at the town’s community center—indicate an increased interest in the sport.
The mayor said about 60% of those surveyed playing the above-mentioned courses are not members of the Oro Valley Community Center.
“None of us have a crystal ball but I think that given the resurgence of golf, I think that there certainly is an increased interest in nine holes,” Winfield said. “Our statistically valid survey did show that a significant percentage of our community are golf players, I think at 20%, which is significantly higher than other communities. So, one of the things that says to me is we are a golf community.”
Town Manager Mary Jacobs said while details of how soon the improvements would start or how the course will be operated in the future are being developed, she plans on having the framework put together to present to the council at their March 3 meeting. She added her team is also focused on finding a property manager to lease and operate the nine-hour in upcoming years, as well as figuring out ways to reduce the course’s water consumption.
“We now have this three-year period with all these different steps. We’re going to be putting together a timetable starting with a budget for the next fiscal year,” Jacobs said. “Which is good timing because we’re in the budget process right now.”
Golf chair for the El Conquistador Patio Homes Association and local resident Anthony D’Angelo said he is cautiously optimistic about the town’s decision to reopen the course. For nearly a year, D’Angelo has been calling for the mayor and council to take action on the dilapidated course after residents noticed HSL properties had not started reseeding the nine-hole ahead of its anticipated October 2020 opening. The golf chair said his group was very much against the town’s second option to turn the course into open space, as it did with Vistoso, and was ultimately pleased the council chose to maintain the property as a golf course.
“I wish it was a little clearer, but in the end, the final vote indicated that at least the council recognizes that the open space option didn’t have a lot of support,” D’Angelo said. “If we can make golf work, that’s the best solution for the town. If there is a significant effort to engage some experts and be able to reduce the amount of water consumption, I think that could be a big benefit.”
D’Angelo added he was trying to understand why Bohen would be opposed to reopening the nine-hole but doesn’t fault the council member for his vote. He said Bohen is trying to do what he believes Oro Valley citizens elected him to do—make sure the town is not wasting tax-payer dollars.
“I think he [Bohen] sees that the town has not managed things as well as they should have with this course and I think that’s a part of his frustration,” D’Angelo said. “Maybe it’s a lack of confidence that the town will do a better job this time around.”