Manitoba

Should Winnipeg take another swing at getting out of the golf business?

Economic development chair John Orlikow thinks it's time to talk about how many golf courses the City of Winnipeg owns.

Economic development chair wonders if the City of Winnipeg owns too many courses

The city's golf services agency was more than $729,000 in the hole last year. (CBC )

Coun. John Orlikow isn't taking issue with golf or golfers — he just wonders how much golf the city should be teeing up for residents.

The question came up after a meeting of the city's innovation and economic development committee. 

Councillors voted to allow the city's special operating agencies, which include animal and golf services, fleet management and the Winnipeg Parking Authority, to retain a surplus of $500,000 before it has to transfer a dividend back to the city's general revenues.

Currently the rule changes would only practically affect the Parking Authority, which turned over a $9.9-million dividend last year, and fleet management which gave back $241,000 to the city's general revenues.

Golf Services — which historically operates at a loss — didn't get as close to the green. Operating the four courses the city runs, and overseeing the leases for another eight, costs the city hundreds of thousands of dollars. Without a $729,000 tax-supported operating subsidy from the city's general revenues, golf services would have run a $560,000 operating deficit in 2019, budget documents say.

Animal services also doesn't generate a surplus, costing the city $771,000 in 2019.

"I would like to have the discussion of what is the best use of golf course lands? Do we need 12 courses in the City of Winnipeg? Can we use [them] for other recreational purposes? Can we take third parties such as soccer clubs and let them use that land?" Orlikow told reporters Monday after the meeting.

Councillor John Orlikow acknowledges golf is a healthy recreational activity, but 'do we need 12 [city-owned] courses?' (Gary Solilak/CBC)

Orlikow was careful not to go too far over par on the city's golf activities.

"Golf is a recreational activity that we should have for people — people do like it. They like to go for a wander. Its a good healthy exercise. But do we need 12?" the River Heights-Fort Garry councillor said.

There have been plenty of hazards in Winnipeg's attempts to trim its golf profile.

In 2013 then-mayor Sam Katz and councillor Russ Wyatt teed up a campaign to sell the city's courses. 

The final stroke wasn't as hoped by the architects of the idea, and the city eventually decided to get rid of only one course: John Blumberg in Headingley.

That also didn't go as planned, as a buyer for the 81-hectare property never materialized.

The past notwithstanding, Orlikow believes it's time to have another look.

Corrections

  • An earlier version of this story said the City of Winnipeg's golf service was expected to generate a loss of just over $729,000 in 2019. In fact, the city provided the agency with a subsidy of $729,000. Without this subsidy, this special operating agency would have an operating deficit of approximately $560,000 in 2019, based on the approved budget for that year.
    Feb 13, 2020 11:35 AM CT

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