4 Winnipeg golf courses could be leased out

Winnipeg city officials want council to allow an outside group to run four city-owned courses, but one councillor already says he doesn't support the idea.

City report also recommends selling John Blumberg Golf Course

GolfNorth Properties Inc. has expressed interest in running four city-run golf courses, including Harbour View, pictured here. (Ryan Hicks/CBC)

The City of Winnipeg is trying to get out of the golf business and has chosen an outside company to manage four of its public courses.

A report by city bureaucrats calls on council to approve a plan to lease out the golf courses, which are losing almost $850,000 a year.

GolfNorth Properties Inc. has expressed interest in running the Kildonan Park, Windsor Park, Crescent Drive and Harbour View golf courses, according to the city.

The company, owned by former BlackBerry CEO Jim Balsillie, would pay the city $100,000 to $150,000 annually for 20 years under the arrangement. And the city would still own the land.

In exchange, GolfNorth would operate the courses, invest about $4 million, and keep almost all the profit it makes.

Report calls for sale of Blumberg

The city report also calls on council to declare the land at John Blumberg surplus so the property can be sold.

Council's alternate service delivery committee will discuss the golf course report on Friday afternoon.

The city had considered selling off a handful of courses and but committee chair Russ Wyatt saif the public made it clear it didn't want to lose city-owned greenspace.

"In that sense it's a win-win for the public," he said.

"We keep the courses, we keep the land. We're not selling them, we're keeping the golf courses inside the city, city-owned, but just run privately."

St. Vital Coun. Brian Mayes said he would not vote in favour of the proposal to contract out the management of the four golf courses.

In a news release issued Monday, Mayes said while the city is "losing money at some of these courses," he argued that the Kildonan golf course does make money, and rounds at Windsor Park have gone up by 46 per cent last year compared to 2011.

As well, work is already underway to improve Crescent Drive and Windsor Park, he argued.

"It is true that the city will likely continue to lose money at the city-operated courses. However, the city also loses money at other recreational facilities and is re-investing in those areas, such as pools," Mayes said in the release.

Mayes also argued that the city would lose control over green fees should management of the four golf courses be contracted out, "raising the problem identified by some golfers that they golf at the city courses because those are the only courses that they can afford."

Mayes said he does support the city's proposal to sell the John Blumberg Golf Course. Wyatt said the city wants to sell that one so it can concentrate on golf for the citizens of Winnipeg, not Headingley.

"I know the people of Headingley are good people and I love them dearly, but … citizens of Winnipeg shouldn't be funding a golf course for them," Wyatt said.

The money from the sale of Blumberg will go back into community centres, he added.

Auditors have found that fewer golfers playing at the public courses, along with increased competition, are factors behind the annual losses.

A loss of about $836,530 was reported in 2011, the city report said.