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What Should Sumner Do With its Golf Course?

The Sumner City Council is set to take a hard look at the future of Sumner Meadows, the city-run golf course. Patch has been invited to a media debriefing on the issue and wants to ask city leaders the questions you care about.

Many of us feel the weight of the bad economy and have to live on a budget. Trips out of town might have to be rescheduled, grocery lists might include more generics, shopping trips fulfill less ‘wants’ than needs and hobbies -- like golf -- tend to hit the backburner.

When it comes down to it, managing Sumner is no different.

As part of the 2013-2014 biennial budget, the city has to make some hard decisions when it comes to its golf course – Sumner Meadows Golf Links.

Ongoing debt payments plus a decline in revenue have forced Mayor Dave Enslow and the Sumner City Council to rethink the value of Sumner Meadows to its citizens and it's possible the city could close the golf course for good next year.

Over the last two years, Sumner's citizens have subsidized over $1.5 million for the 6,800-yard course – half of which came from the same account that funds police, parks and other essential services, according to the city website.

This week, Patch has been invited to participate in a media roundtable meeting with City Administrator John Galle and Carmen Palmer, head of communications, to talk about the future of Sumner’s golf course.

We want to bring your questions to the table.

What concerns or questions do you have about the future of Sumner Meadows? Do you want to see it remain a golf course or possibly repurposed into something else?

Leave your comments below and we’ll be sure to ask. And stay tuned for our story on Sumner Meadows with the answers to all of your questions.

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Here’s some more information on issues surrounding the golf course, from the City of Sumner website:

How did we get here?  In 1993, Sumner purchased land in the north end and developed a golf course now known as Sumner Meadows.  While at the time the city saw the potential of preserving green space with the added potential of bringing revenue into the city, the golf industry has been in decline for a number of years; new courses have opened; competition to attract golfers has stiffened.

Are selling the course or raising taxes the only options?  No. The council is considering many options, but keeping the golf course would most likely mean having to raise taxes to some extent. The council also needs a gauge of the value of the golf course to the community. They would like to hear from the public as they consider these options. 

Can’t we just refinance? Refinancing is a good tool, but just like a home mortgage, at some point you have to pay the actual amount owed. There’s no way to refinance a balance to zero.

What if we rebuild the clubhouse?  Lack of clubhouse is definitely adding to the problem, but while a clubhouse would make things better, it is not a solution to the full debt. First, there’s the cost of rebuilding, and then there’s the challenge that when the course had a clubhouse, it only broke even once in 14 years. 

Can you keep the course without raising property taxes?  Probably not.  Remember, half of the subsidy is coming from the General Fund, which funds parks, police and other essential services. Keeping the course without raising taxes would most likely mean cutting essential services, which isn’t a viable option.

What if we got more golfers?  We would love to see more golfers use our course! However, this region already has an abundance of golf courses trying to draw from the same pool of golfers. While some marketing efforts might increase the numbers in the short-term, for a course to be sustainable over the long-term in this market, it would likely need a significant investment in improvements and amenities to successfully compete.  

Can the City use the $2.5 million that was pledged to the YMCA for the golf course instead?  No, these are two separate issues.  The golf course would need more than $2.5 million to be self-sustaining. Plus, the city will pay its pledge of $2.5 million to the YMCA from one-time impact fees that the building of the YMCA itself would generate for the city. In other words, Sumner has pledged to reinvest the money that directly comes from building the YMCA, not from the General Fund or other sources. One of the main reasons the citizens group chose the model of a YMCA running a gathering place versus the city running or owning it was to avoid a second long-term financial situation like the golf course. In addition, there’s a difference in the community’s demand.  Only 3 percent of the golfers at Sumner Meadows are Sumner residents while a 1 out of every 2 residents said they’d join a YMCA. 

Lauren Padgett (Editor) September 24, 2012 at 07:14 PM
Please leave your comments and concerns here in the comment section and I'll be sure to bring them up to city leaders in our meeting on Wednesday. Thank you!
Kevin Dunn September 24, 2012 at 07:40 PM
It seems that there is the perception of a narrow window of options here. Is the city council just trying to hold onto the land for some other purpose in the future that has not been disclosed yet? Or, would the city council consider a few other options. Oki Golf has been purchasing failing golf courses in the region for the past decade. Has anyone contacted them to gauge the interest? Also, being that the city owns this property, how dificult would it be to turn the property around the course into a housing community, such as Sunland in Sequim. You might have to reconfigure the course layout, but it would be a fantastic investment, and would not require a club house renovation initially. With the city controlling the zoning, this would seem to be a very lucrative long term investment all the while preserving the money invested in the golf course already. Also, building a Clubhouse that is large enough to rent out part of it for events non related to golf along with a restaurant inside, would be a boon to the area when done properly, not chaeply. If you look at Foster Golf Links in Tukwila, it was on the same course as Sumner Meadows until they invested in the clubhouse and some other amenities. Whatever the verdict is for the property, it seems that there are several resources locally that have not yet been tapped, and talented people who have turned similar situations around right here in the Puget Sound region. You can e-mail me at kevindunnloans@aol.com
Kaedy Nelson September 26, 2012 at 12:29 PM
We are losing open spaces at an alarming rate. If they sell it, most likely it will be paved over and covered with warehouses. A clubhouse is needed if they want to start making a profit on the course.
Smokey Bongwater September 28, 2012 at 05:38 PM
How about a overhead door tax every time a trailer pulls into a warehouse bay they pay a fee. Oh, never mind I forgot those thousands of acres of empty warehouses don't get many trucks. FILL the warehouses first before taking away peoples green areas.

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