The following is an Op-Ed written by Oro Valley resident Tom Plantz

 


Making the Right Decision for Oro Valley

 

I’ll declare my bias right up front!  Our Oro Valley Town-owned golf courses should not be closed or repurposed by our Mayor and 3 Council members and here’s why…

You know that the Mayor and Town Council have been deliberating on a potential closure or repurposing of the golf courses for nearly a year.  I have listened to the rhetoric in the special study sessions and Council meetings and have concluded that this is a critical economic issue for all Oro valley residents whether you play golf or not or whether or not you live on the course.  Both the Town and its residents have so much to lose financially.  The study data are clear that home values in all of Oro Valley will significantly drop from 5% to 20% depending on proximity to the golf courses.  Further, the negative tax implications will be significant for the Town.

Whether you play golf or not, it is an indisputable fact that that our golf courses are “economic engines” which add so much to the overall fabric of our Town and the attractiveness of a community we have come to love.  The Town of Oro Valley did not accidentally achieve state and national recognition in these areas:

  • Safest city in Arizona
  • Arizona’s best small city
  • One of America’s 10 safest suburbs
  • Best place in AZ to raise kids
  • One of 100 best places in America to live and launch a small business

Clearly, these accolades did not just happen without a lot of dedicated community leaders making Oro Valley the attractive community it is today.  It is the result of careful planning and solid business management which seems lacking right now in some parts of the Council chambers.

I would suggest that our community is currently facing a Quality of Life issue.  You know, it’s really quite simple.  It’s a well known fact that golf is an important part of Arizona’s economy to include Oro Valley.  It is a defining component and centerpiece of our Town. Golf supports jobs and adds revenue streams in many ways to both the Town and the Town’s business community, especially during the 6 month snowbird season.  Tourists are attracted to golf communities and spend their money in places like Oro Valley during the winter months.

Of critical importance, golf facilities exert a positive effect on the value of our real estate.  Closing the courses would impact more than the golfers.  It would have a dramatic and negative impact on property values.  At once, it would detract from the social and environmental fabric that is such an integral part of Oro Valley’s makeup.

As a 15 year resident of our Town, I am deeply concerned about the substantial negative fallout a closing or repurposing would have on our community…

  • Loss of property tax revenue which supports roads, schools, libraries and police and fire
  • The millions of dollars of hard costs associated with repurposing
  • The loss of our Water Utility revenue if the courses do not purchase effluent water
  • The loss of tourism and tournaments that draw people to Oro Valley
  • The loss of revenue from bed taxes and city taxes
  • Potential financial liability for the Town resulting from lawsuits driven by a closure decision

In business, there are 2 ways of improving profitability or the bottom line… lower costs and enhance revenues.  The Mayor and 3 council members seem blindsided to the opportunities which exist in doing both!

What seems to be missing in balancing the equation of fiscal responsibility is a “Philosophical Direction” (Mission) for the Town’s golf program.  The mission or purpose provides valuable guidance and direction.  The Mayor and Council must define the direction and answer a critical question… “What is more important: having a community asset for our citizenry or being a profit center which supports other community programs?”  To the degree that the Town’s mission includes serving its citizens, then a greater degree of tolerance to program losses is expected.  On the other hand, if profitability is the only goal and there is a financial shortfall then closing things down becomes the easy way out.  We don’t need a permanent solution to a temporary problem!  Rather, fix the issues, cut expenses and increase revenues.

Of course revenues can be enhanced!  We should not be overly concerned about losing golfers but rather with seeking new customers (golfers) who will add to profitability.  What seems to be missing is a solid marketing plan which is sorely needed and, unfortunately, nobody is discussing that.  There is no apparent proactive and creative marketing being done for the golf courses.  Business folks know that marketing is the lifeblood for most businesses, especially those in highly competitive industries such as golf.  A web site is essentially ineffective; an organized aggressive marketing plan is essential.  To add to the problem, there seems to be a disconnect between the Town and its golf manager, Troon.  Neither seems to be developing a marketing plan which could have a powerful effect on enhancing revenues.  Properly planned and executed, a viable marketing plan will improve the revenue cycle by attracting new business and new customers for the golf courses..

And, while I’m discussing the need for marketing, let’s not forget about a “diamond in the rough” called The Overlook Restaurant.  This venue boasts of having one of the prettiest city/mountain views in town but it needs some TLC and a major operational overhaul.  Maybe the right path is for the Town to get out of the restaurant business, turn it over to a local restaurateur to lease it from the Town and make it a viable operation and food destination not just for golfers but for our community!

So, regardless of whether or not you are a golfer or whether or not you agree with these thoughts, please carefully consider what’s at risk if the Mayor and 3 Council members prevail.  The economic ramifications for our community are huge.  We remind the Mayor and the 3 Council members that they are faced with an opportunity; not a problem.  With careful planning, improved revenues and decreased expenses, this wonderful community asset can remain as the centerpiece of our many community assets.  Closure will be the beginning of a further erosion of our Town’s character and fabric.  Is that what we want?

Tom Plantz is a Retired Healthcare Executive,
USAF officer & Vietnam Veteran, and
A Published Author