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What’s The Future Of Terre Haute’s Struggling Golf Courses?

A golfer tees off at Rolling Meadows golf course.

Residents of Vigo County met at a forum last night to discuss the future of Terre Haute’s two local golf courses after years of revenue and funding losses.

The golf courses, Rea Park and Hulman Links, have operated with an average deficit of nearly $500,000 per year since 2012.

The Terre Haute City Council has considered proposals for privatization and for outsourcing course management to a private company, but has decided not to pursue those options for the 2018 fiscal year.

Pat Goodwin is running for mayor of Terre Haute in the 2019 election year. He arranged and led the forum.

In a presentation, Goodwin suggested restructuring the budget in the future to invest more money in the parks department, with a focus on the golf courses. He says the investment would pay off in the long run.

“We have to do things to invest in ourselves as a city, to help improve our situation,” Goodwin says. “And one of the ways we invest in ourselves is with our parks and our golf courses,” says Goodwin.

But the budget for the golf courses this year is the same as in 2017, despite the deficit.

Earl Elliott is a member of the Terre Haute City Council, and chairman of its financial committee. He says while the official budget hasn’t changed, city officials are working on a plan to cut the deficit in half.

He says the plan focuses on increasing ticket prices and cutting spending. But he says it won’t eliminate the deficit all the way – and that’s okay, considering the size of the general parks department budget.

“So if you look at $2 million in tax revenue to fund the parks department, $250,000 for the golf courses is only about 11 percent of the total of those,” Elliott says.

Part of the proposed plan includes higher ticket prices at the golf courses. A season pass for both courses was previously $750; now, it’s increased by 15 percent.

But residents at the forum voiced concern over the increased rates. Goodwin and other residents say the council shouldn’t focus on charging the people already visiting the golf course, but on bringing in visitors from outside Vigo County.

“I don’t know if any of you have ever done a search on Google, because you all know where the local golf courses are,” Goodwin says, “but if you ever type in ‘best place to golf in central Indiana,’ or pick your search, unfortunately you will never find our golf courses.”

And some community members are doing just that.

A local committee, including council member Elliott, is attempting to raise grant money to renovate the Rea Park clubhouse, a building originally built in 1925. Supporters of the renovation hope the clubhouse will bring more visitors to the county, and, in turn, more money to the golf courses.

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