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Salt Lake City's golf program is about to get smaller, but its parks system will get larger.
After months of analysis and discussion, the Salt Lake City Council on Tuesday sent recommendations to Mayor Ralph Becker that would transfer Wingpointe Golf Course to Salt Lake City International Airport, remake the Glendale course into a multifaceted regional park and perhaps close the Nibley course to make way for a park, as well.
The airport will determine if the links at Wingpointe will stay open, according to the council. Councilman Charlie Luke said it would be advantageous for the airport to continue to operate the course.
The Federal Aviation Administration had earlier ruled that the golf system must lease the airport land at fair market value equivalent to $500,000 or $600,000 per year.
The future for Nibley also remains unclear. The lease agreement with the city could limit the use of the land to golf. Salt Lake City continues to evaluate the agreement.
While the council recommended the immediate transfer of Wingpointe to the airport, it recommended that Glendale and Nibley continue to operate as golf courses until formal plans and funding are in place for other operations. Both will operate as golf links in 2015 and perhaps longer.
Councilman Stan Penfold said Nibley is a good location for a regional park.
"Projections are for Nibley to lose money," he said. "It's a perfect place for alternative uses like soccer fields."
The council also recommended to the administration that it put a general obligation bond before voters that would address a broad range of recreation needs across the city and also pay for changes at Glendale and Nibley.
The remaining courses all will be irrigated by secondary water, according to the council's recommendations. Some of that funding also could come from the bond.
It remains unclear whether the bond would be on November's ballot.
The council voted last year to close the Jordan River Par 3 in Rose Park. It, too, is slated to become a park.
The painful process that finally came to something of a conclusion Tuesday was set in motion by annual increases in red ink. Salt Lake City's golf program is at least $1 million in the hole. And the eight-course system had racked up $23 million in deferred maintenance.
Rounds of golf played are down in Salt Lake City and across the nation.
Last year, Becker informed the council that under Utah law, the city could not operate a program that could not repay its debts. He advised the body that if it didn't balance the golf program's books, he would do it himself.
Over the past year, the council commissioned two consultant reports and also sought advice from a resident advisory committee. Further, it accepted reports from University of Utah students and Westminster College students.
Tuesday's vote forwards three similar recommendations to the mayor. They differ in whether the city should: 1) create a management team for the entire system; 2) propose a three-year contract for a "game changer" manager to fix the system; or 3) conduct no such search at all.
Councilman Kyle LaMalfa, whose District 2 includes Glendale, said as painful as it is to close a course in his neighborhood, Salt Lake City must be aware of the changing recreation needs of its youth.
"Experts have told us that golf is over-built," he said. "Recreation needs must be met for all our residents. We are a city that loves to recreate."
The mayor will take the recommendations under advisement. He can accept all or part of the recommendations.
David Everitt, the mayor's chief of staff, said the administration is "very encouraged by the direction the council has provided."
The recommendations the mayor endorses will be included in his annual budget, due in May.
email@example.com Salt Lake City Council golf proposals
• Transfer Wingpointe to Salt Lake City International Airport
• Close Glendale and create a regional park
• Consider closing Nibley for a regional park
• Initiate general obligation bond for a wide range of recreation proposals
• Incorporate secondary water system
• Keep Glendale and Nibley open for golf until funding is available
Option A: Requests creation of a management team to oversee the golf system, with maintenance upgrades;
Option B: Proposes to hire a "game changer" manager to oversee the golf fund;
Option C: Issues no request for proposal.