Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Hike lending to city links: report

Suggests line of credit be boosted to $6.5M

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Winnipeg's golf courses need additional credit to continue operations, according to a new report that shows city-owned links are projected to lose another $835,000 this year.

An administrative report released Thursday calls on Winnipeg to increase the Winnipeg Golf Services' line of credit by $500,000, bringing it to a total of $6.5 million. Winnipeg Golf Services is a special operating agency that owns 12 public golf courses, and is projected to exceed its existing $6-million line of credit due to a shortfalls in green-fee revenues after 2011 flooding kept the Crescent Drive and Windsor Park courses closed for part of the season.

The report recommends Winnipeg hold current green-fee rates in an attempt to increase the number of rounds played this season. The agency's business plan said municipal golf courses saw a 10 per cent decline in the number of rounds played in 2011, including a 28 per cent decline at Windsor Park and a 20 per cent decline at Crescent Drive.

In 2012, Winnipeg Golf Services is set to lose $835,342 -- slightly less than the $1 million it lost last year.

"I'm not that surprised and that's why we've gone through the (expression of interest) process," said Coun. Scott Fielding (St. James-Brooklands), who chairs council's alternate service delivery committee, which is responsible for special operating agencies. "We need to make some changes."

This morning, the alternate service delivery committee will consider a report that recommends Winnipeg use a process called "managed competition" to stop financial losses at the Kildonan Park, Windsor Park, Crescent Drive and Harbour View courses. The process will look at the cost of operating the courses under public or private agreements and involve working with city unions to see if they can provide services for less money than cost estimates submitted by the private sector.

The report recommends none of the courses be sold.

Fielding said he believes focusing on the most problematic courses will be the first step in addressing the financial losses. He said Winnipeg needs to find ways to manage the courses better so they stop losing money.

Last fall, the city released an expression of interest to see if anyone wanted to purchase or take over the long-term leases of the Canoe Club, Crescent Drive, Harbour View, John Blumberg, Kildonan Park, Tuxedo or Windsor Park golf courses.

The EOI came after city auditors found the courses racked up large debts and suggested Winnipeg sell some of them or convert them into parks.

jen.skerritt@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 6, 2012 B3

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