tp-nb-rockwood-golf

The number of rounds at Rockwood Park Golf Course is down between 30 and 40 per cent, according to the company operating the municipal course. (CBC)

The City of Saint John will soon have to look for someone to take over operations at Rockwood Park Golf Course.

Total Golf Management has operated the city-owned course and its unique aquatic driving range for 20 seasons, but Gerry Connolly, president of the company, says it may be no longer feasible to continue.

"The number of rounds is generally down 30 to 40 per cent," said Connolly. "It's tough to be in business in Saint John right now."

The company's contract with the city comes to an end this year. Capital costs had previously been split 50-50 with the city but that money dried up five years ago.

Connolly pays the property tax bill, operation and maintenance costs, as well as a lease fee to the city. He says he would never agree to that arrangement again.

"There's no room for that," he said.

However, Connolly says if he applies to stay on at Rockwood, he wouldn't look for city money to keep the course running.

"If capital work is going to proceed at Rockwood Park, it should not be the citizens of Saint John that pay for that work. It should be the golfers that play the golf course," he said.

"There's about five per cent of people who live in the city who actually play golf at Rockwood. The 95 per cent who don't should not have to subsidize the golf course in any way.

"I'm a firm believer that if it's going to be a golf course and it's going to survive, it has to survive on its own."

The aquatic driving range is closed for a second season, said Connolly, and possibly for good. He says golf technology now allows hitters to overdrive the range, and significant upgrades are required.

"It's at a point where it could be reopened, but there is very little interest in the aquatic range by the community," Connolly said.

Coun. Shirley McAlary says it may be time to sell the course. She says the city is stretched thin, with too many facilities on the books.

"At some point in time, the city has to let go of some of these and let private business take over if there's an interest," she said.

There's no word yet on when the city will issue a call for proposals to manage the golf course going forward.