This year’s $1.7 million bailout of Carlsbad’s three-year-old golf course will bring the total amount of annual subsidies since its opening to $5.1 million. Four of the five council members who voted to tap city coffers again this time voted for each of the previous giveaways. Here’s a small sample of what three of them have said to explain their votes to save a failing enterprise.
The most creative justification came from newly re-elected councilman Mark Packard. “We’re not subsidizing," he claimed, "we’re ‘fronting’ the money. None of us on the council play golf, so we didn’t do this for our own benefit.” For him, keeping the course on life support amounts to a misnamed and selfless act.
In a variation of I’m-from-the-government- and-I’m-here-to-help, Mayor-elect Matt Hall assured his constituents, “The five of us manage the affairs of the city very well and I feel certain it will pay for itself.”
Holding environmentalists largely responsible for the ballooning cost of construction from its $11 million estimate 18 years ago, Retiring Mayor Lewis sadly predicted, “This will pay, maybe not in my lifetime.”
Each year since its August 2007 opening, the number of budgeted rounds of golf has fallen. The number for 2008 was 52,000. This year’s number of actual rounds is projected to be 42,000. That’s a 20 percent decline. Reaching next year’s budgeted goal of 44,000 seems unlikely, given the course’s track record.
Management blames the recession for the dwindling number of golfers, but the National Golf Foundation reports only a 2.4 percent decline in rounds played in the U.S. from 2007 through 2009.
Fourteen percent of Americans played golf in 2000, falling to 12 percent today, according to the NGF. Is golf a dying sport? Jack Nicklaus worries about its future. In a recent interview with foxsports.com, the golfing legend claimed young fathers are now so pre-occupied with other sports at the Little League level they have little time to hit the links or to teach their children the game. He also blamed the game's slow pace, suggesting kids don't want to got out and spend six or seven hours on a golf course.
At a September candidates’ forum, Hall was the only one of the four mayoral hopefuls indicating he’d oppose selling the course. At the council’s November 30 meeting he said The Crossings will be one of the strengths of the city, “or perhaps (my emphasis) a future swim complex and public subsidies for these will be necessary.”
On the campaign trail he sounded much more committed to “finding the money” for the swim complex. Now that he’s been elected? Not so much, it seems.
The prospects for completing the Alga Norte project seem brighter next year with the addition of Farrah Douglas to the council in January. As a candidate she consistently claimed the money was available, despite the vote last year by the council’s good-old-boy majority of Lewis, Hall and Packard, to delay construction. Ann Kulchin and Keith Blackburn were the minority voices in favor of going forward on it. With those two and Douglas now in the majority, a second community swimming pool may at last become a reality.
Dare we hope Douglas will create a new council majority that will also consider a Plan B for the gaping money pit amid the rolling hills above our Village By The Sea?