West Seattle Blog… | VIDEO: Seattle’s golf courses are no longer moneymakers, city says, so here’s what’s being done about that

That’s Seattle Channel video of this past week’s meeting of the Seattle Board of Park Commissioners, which included a briefing on a subject of West Seattle interest – a study focusing on the future of the city’s public golf courses/facilities, including the West Seattle Golf Course. As explained in the briefing – which starts 44 minutes into the video – the city’s golf program not only no longer generates extra revenue for Seattle Parks, something it did for a long time, but isn’t even covering its expenses. So the city has commissioned a study to help figure out the public golf facilities’ future.

The study is under way, and at Thursday night’s meeting, the Parks Board got an update on how it’s going so far. The briefing document provided to the board included the following findings from early stakeholder interviews and market research:

Preliminary Feedback from Stakeholder Interviews Conducted to Date and Market Research Findings

Seattle’s municipal golf courses provide benefits beyond the game of golf.

o Public golf is misunderstood and stereotyped in a way that is not consistent with the demographics of who plays at municipal public golf-courses. Nationally, 70% of all rounds nationally are played at public golf courses, not private clubs.

o Expanding access and creating new opportunities to experience golf and Seattle’s public golf facilities is desired.

o There are opportunities to build partnerships and to use Seattle’s municipal golf courses to meet the needs of the growing Seattle population who need open space and recreation opportunities within the City. (Seattle’s population grew by 21,000 from July 1, 2015 – July 1, 2016)

The golf program is not meeting financial policy targets.

o The Golf Master Plan strategy has not been implemented as planned and has contributed to revenue challenges.

o Rising labor and utility expenses in the City were not anticipated in budget projections.

Preliminary Market Research Findings:

o A 2007 State golf economic analysis reported that of 280 courses in the state at that time, 219 were public, and 47 were municipally-owned.

o Nationally interest in golf is declining, especially among millennials; however, golf in Seattle and the State of Washington exceeds the national participation rate. (7% of total population nationally, 10 12% in Seattle.)

o Seattle golf participation rates are in the mid-range of popular recreational activities: walking, picnics, bike riding are the most popular and rugby, surfboarding, lacrosse the least popular.

o The 2017 Parks and Recreation Study conducted by EMC found that 43 percent thought the City should spend less on golf, although the survey did not provided information on the revenue contributed by the golf courses to the City Parks and Recreation Budget.

o Nationally, minority participation is about 20%, primarily among Hispanic and Latino Americans. Seattle has not tracked minority participation rates at its courses; however, the first African American and Asian American golf players clubs in the State were founded at Jefferson and are still active, and First Tee and Bogey Bear programs have successfully introduced the sport to diverse youth in Seattle.

o Seattle’s female participation at its golf courses ranges between 10-17 percent while nationally the average is 23 percent.

You can see the full document from the board briefing here. Beyond the discussion at the Parks Board meeting, it does not appear there are any open feedback opportunities related to the study – and in fact, the board was told “it’s not a big public-outreach (opportunity).” They plan more stakeholder interviews later this month and a “focus group” in March, with the final report to be presented in May, including three potential “scenarios” for the future of the city’s golf program.

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