Proposed Golf Course Would Cost More Than Highland Park Theatre
Candidates fail to address festering fiscal effect of proposed Fort Sheridan golf course.
With the Highland Park elections approaching, all the candidates can be found worshiping at the church of fiscal integrity. And the sacrificial lamb is the Highland Park Theatre. Yet curiously off the fiscal integrity radar and certainly not on anyone’s campaign literature is the economic impact on Highland Park residents of the plan to develop a golf course at Fort Sheridan. These dots need connecting.
Highland Park residents subsidize public golf. Every time someone tees up, it costs residents $24 for that round of golf. For the latest period reported, the Highland Park Country Club (HPCC), owned by the city, lost over $600,000, largely on the dismal performance of its golf operations. The Park District’s Sunset Valley golf course lost over $268,000. These annual losses are exclusively the result of decreasing golf rounds being played, a national trend that has prevailed for the last 10 years. Informed predictions show no relief.
If the Fort Sheridan golf course is built, Lake County’s golf marketing consultant has estimated that HPCC will lose up to an additional $235,000 in revenue. The estimate for the Park District is an additional revenue loss of up to $107,000. Lake County, another Highland Park taxing body, is projected to lose as much as $400,000 in revenue from its existing golf operations. In sum, the Fort Sheridan golf course will redistribute decreasing golf revenue over increased operating costs. And the public makes up the growing deficit.
The city and Park District struggle to close the gap between their operations’ revenue and fully burdened costs. It would seem one of the most obvious tactics to achieve this desired fiscal integrity is to avoid the predicted losses resulting from developing a golf course at Fort Sheridan. Yet, in spite of the data, the City of Highland Park adopted a policy supporting development of this golf course.
It’s not a black or white issue. In a few years, the city will transfer the HPCC to the Park District. And it appears one of the existing two municipal golf courses may be closed. Logically, this might reduce the total losses. But it wouldn’t eliminate them.
So while the candidates distract us by expressing their fiscal propriety over the movie theater, pro or con, the financial bloodbath is taking place on the golf course. Once I get the candidates to express their views on this matter, I’ll let you know what they say.