Lindsay City Hall is getting out of the golf and stadium business, putting its money into soccer fields in a major shift in municipal recreation for the Orange Belt town.
Citing the need to tighten its financial belt during the city’s ongoing economic crisis, the Lindsay City Council approved a pair of moves designed to eliminate what have been money-losing propositions. Staff will seek to sever its 20-year agreement with the Lindsay Unified School District (LUSD)for management of the town’s stadium, while at the same time redirecting $330,000 in grant money toward turning the city-owned, 9-hole public golf course into a five-field soccer and sports complex.
The city currently pays $21,600 annually for management of its golf course, along with $22,200 per year in labor to maintain the links.
On average, 268 rounds of golf are played on those greens each year.
“So, you’re paying the golfers $153 to go out there and golf,” City Manager Bill Zigler told the City Council at its February 27 meeting. “Considering the city’s current financial status, this is not sustainable.”
Zigler said his staff surveyed 25 9-hole golf courses maintained by other cities in California. None of them are profitable enterprises, he said. The survey includes the city-owned course in Porterville, which will lose more than $128,000 in the current budget cycle.
‘Not for Driving’
In a compromise action, a portion of the course–a chipping and putting green near the No. 1 hole–will be preserved.
“If people wanted to bring their own balls and shag their own balls, that’s kind of good, because that’s what our course is for, chipping and putting,” said Mayor Pro Tem Danny Salinas. “It’s not for driving, for the most part.”
Councilman Esteban Valasquez cast the lone no vote on the conversion, citing concerns about diversity. Golf, he said, is a sport enjoyed by all ages. Councilman Brian Watson countered, saying the course hosts “more squirrels than there are golfers.”
There is no lack of eager soccer players in Lindsay, however. The Lindsay Youth Soccer League, which began in 2013 with 260 players, now has more than 450 competing on 37 teams.
City Can’t Afford Stadium
In 2008, the city agreed, after installing artificial turf at the LUSD stadium, to share partial responsibility for its upkeep in exchange for use of the fields. However, in the decade since then, the city has fallen on hard economic times, and it can no longer keep up its end of the bargain.
“In many cases, we’re not doing a good job out there,” Zigler said of the city’s efforts to hold up its end of the bargain.
The problem is City Hall has too much to do and too little to do it with.
“We have a very detailed agreement that puts a lot of responsibility on the city that, frankly, I can’t do, I don’t have the staff to do, we don’t have the financial to do,” Zigler said. “So, it’s time to time to take a hard look at this.”
With a clear picture of a failing agreement before them, the Council agreed to ask the school district for a reevaluation of the contract.
Zigler says the move will be no shock to Superintendent Thomas Rooney or the the LUSD Governing Board.
“Mr. Rooney is keenly aware of this,” Zigler said. “I’ve had this conversation with him many times.”
The city hopes to end its responsibility for installing and then maintaining turf and landscaping at Lindsay High School Stadium. It would allow staff to continue to lock and unlock the stadium for use during non-LUSD event, but not for free. City Hall plans to charge for the service.
Zigler will report back to the Council with any counter offer from the school district, he said.
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Focusing on the golf course, this “cuts costs”…how? The fields will still need to be maintained. Between the existing schools and McDermott, is there a lack of space for soccer players? What about those existing fields on Harvard and Tulare Road? Why not just run a lawn mower over them and use them? Sell the golf course for housing lots.