Price to golf in Wichita goes up

WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) - The Wichita City Council has voted to increase the green fees at its five golf courses.

The unanimous vote increases the price for a round of golf by $2 to $3. City golf officials said the increase comes more than a year after the Golf Advisory Committee was tasked with reviewing operations, as well as business and marketing plans in order to create a sustainable golf enterprise fund.

"Two or $3 to some people that might be a hardship, to some it won't be. It's an investment in your facilities. These golf courses are here for the Wichita public. They're not here for us to just come out and mow and look at. They're here for them to enjoy and to be proud of and that's what we are wanting to do to keep them in that kind of condition for what they're really wanting, something they can bring their friends to when they come to town to play at and say 'hey, look at what we've got,'" said Wichita Golf Manager Troy Hendricks.

Hendricks said there's been a steady decrease in the number of rounds of golf being played on Wichita courses.

According to a parks department report presented to the city council, 203,074 rounds were played in 1997. In 2001, the number of rounds played decreased to 179,000. That number than decreased to 157,000 rounds in 2016.

"I think it has some to do with the economy. We are in Wichita and we think our economy, in my opinion, the economy hasn't fully recovered yet from the recession and so we aren't seeing as many people playing golf," Hendricks said.

Golf course operations are funded by user fees collected in the Golf Fund. The courses are not included in the city's general fund.

"Whatever we bring in in revenue is what we can afford to spend. We are covering all of our operating expenses on a yearly basis. We are just not generating enough revenue to make it sustainable," he said.

The Golf Department has had some success in recent years offering "footgolf" and doing other marketing ploys, however equipment continues to age and the cost to replace it continues to increase.

"We have golf courses that are using equipment that's 18 to 20 years old. We have irrigation systems that have been in place at three facilities that are nearing 30 years that haven't had any updates done to them, so at some point in time we are going to have to have some major infrastructure improvements to the facilities," Hendricks said. "We have to be sustainable. That's our goal is to try to keep the golf courses sustainable."

Hendricks said the Golf Department expects the price increase to generate about $265,000 annually. The money will go toward replacement equipment and the Golf Fund. The increase will take effect in 2018.

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