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Local

A history of DeKalb's River Heights golf course ahead of Thursday's meeting debating closure

Public meeting on future of course set for Thursday

The clubhouse Monday at River Heights Golf Course in DeKalb. Since 2015, the DeKalb Park District has lost about $313,000 on golf operations, budget records show.
The clubhouse Monday at River Heights Golf Course in DeKalb. Since 2015, the DeKalb Park District has lost about $313,000 on golf operations, budget records show.

DeKALB – To make up a $65,000 operations deficit, golf courses run by the DeKalb Park District would need to see about 1,800 more visitors a season.

Those numbers come from the listed green fees at both River Heights Golf Course, which at its maximum rate charges $35 a person for the 18-hole course, and Buena Vista, which charges $21 at its maximum rate for the 9-hole course. DeKalb Park District staff and its board of commissioners will once again grapple with ongoing financial woes as they weigh the pros and cons of closing River Heights at their meeting Thursday.

During a public meeting set for 6 p.m. Thursday, at the Ellwood House Visitors Center, 509 N. First St., the board will hear a consulting firm’s report on the district’s golf courses, although no vote will be taken. The report will include a recommendation that the course close, said Amy Doll, the park district’s executive director, although there’s no immediate plan to close the course.

In 1966, River Heights first opened as a 9-hole course on 43 acres of property. The park district bought the course from its original owners in March 1985 for $300,000.

After the 1985 purchase, the district bought an additional 85 acres of undeveloped property around the course, and in 1994 reopened River Heights as the 18-hole course used today. It is the city’s only 18-hole public course.

Budget records show the district paid off the last of the bonds on the land purchase in 2004.

Revenue at River Heights, 1020 Sharon Drive, and Buena Vista, the district’s nine-hole course at 131 Buena Vista Drive, has steadily declined and, after adding in overhead maintenance costs, the park district is losing money on golf operations. Since 2015, the district has lost about $313,000 on golf operations, budget records show.

Records also show that reducing turf maintenance supplies at both courses and eliminating the short course at Buena Vista was requested in preliminary drafts of the 2020 budget, but ultimately not fulfilled.

For each round of golf played in fiscal 2020, the district must use $6.33 from its general fund to cover the operating deficit. Golf operations bring in 9% of the district’s total revenue. For fiscal 2020, the golf fund is expected to be more than $65,000 in the red.

According to the fiscal 2020 park district budget, there was an $8,000 decrease in seasonal golf wages compared with fiscal 2019, a $5,500 decrease in golf cost of sales, and a $3,500 decrease in golf utilities costs.

In fiscal 2020, the district cut a full-time River Heights clubhouse attendant, reduced the hours of a part-time attendant and cut back on turf maintenance expenses.

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