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The Federal Aviation Administration has given Salt Lake City another swing at saving Wingpointe Golf Course, though the city's position may be no better on its second attempt.
A memo sent last month by an FAA official and a recent follow-up phone call has the mayor's office "cautiously optimistic," said spokesman Matthew Rojas. The city hopes to negotiate a change in the FAA's by-the-letter stance on the course, which closed in November 2015 and was minimally sustained through December 2016.
"When [Mayor Jackie Biskupski] took office, we were told that it absolutely could not happen," Rojas said.
FAA Associate Administrator Benito De Leon wrote in January that "[w]e encourage the city to provide the FAA with a proposal that would allow the Wingpointe Golf Course to reopen and allow the airport to meet its federal grant requirements."
A challenge now for the city will be persuading the FAA to dramatically lower its valuation of the land.
A June 2011 FAA compliance review found the city's airport which in 1988 agreed to a 99-year lease with the city at $1 per year had effectively subsidized the golf course and violated conditions of the airport's federal funding.
The FAA ruled the city must pay a fair-market rent for the property, which city officials say could be $2.4 million per year after an FAA-required rezone for aeronautical use. That's more than twice Wingpointe's highest-ever annual revenues.
The city opted instead to close the course and return the land to airport management. But Biskupski vowed to revive the links-style course, valued by golfers for its low cost and unique wetland features. In late-November, she wrote to the FAA that the Wingpointe has no aeronautical or commercial use and asked the agency to reconsider its decision.
City Council members, having last summer approved $60,000 to temporarily preserve the course, were dismayed last month to hear the city had yet to receive a response.
Reopening the course would require an investment of about $1.1 million, city officials estimate. Those costs are expected to grow if maintenance isn't continued in the spring.
Rojas said Friday that a reopened Wingpointe would likely be operated by a third party, separate from the six municipal courses in the city's golf enterprise fund.