One of London’s municipal golf courses appears headed to another date with city council’s budget chopping block.
Golfers are sounding the alarm after learning that a report from the Parks and Recreation Department titled ‘Recommendation to close River Road Golf Course’ is going to city council later this month.
“A lot of people will want to have a say about this,” says municipal golf course member Angus Johnson. “If River Road is not going to be open, it brings into question the value of buying a membership at the remaining city courses.”
River Road Golf Course is one of London’s three municipally-owned public courses.
In January 2020, a KPMG audit report recommended closing the course because of declining rounds and growing financial losses.
City council put that decision on hold, and the course never opened to players last year as a means to control pandemic-related expenses.
“There has been a resistance to divest of that public asset,” explains Councillor Shawn Lewis.
Lewis has not yet received the new report, but says the decision point facing council is clear.
“The report is titled Recommendations for Closure, and I think that’s an effort to be transparent with the community about what direction is being recommended.” he adds.
The president of CUPE Local 107, which represents city hall’s outside workers, points to skyrocketing demand for tee times at the municipality’s two other courses last season as proof that a third is needed.
“I don’t know the objective of closing a course when last year you couldn’t get on a course to play golf,” argues Alastair Bruff.
Bruff adds the financial case for closure would be based on pre-pandemic usage.
In November, civic administration told CTV News that a combined 110,000 rounds were played at Thames Valley and Fanshawe courses in 2020.
The demand for golf as a safer pandemic activity, however, wasn’t enough to prevent a $150,000 net loss for the golf system.
Councillor Lewis says there are many questions that he will have when the report goes before council.
“Are we looking to repurpose the lands for municipal use? Are we looking to sell the lands? If we sell are we reinvesting that revenue back into Golf?” he asks.
But River Road supporters say making the course a scapegoat for pandemic-related losses is simply wrong.
“Obviously River Road lost money last year, it was closed. It took in no revenue,” points out Johnson.
The detailed staff report will be made public on February 10.
A virtual public meeting will be held by council’s Strategic Priorities and Policy Committee on February 16th.