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Letter: Parsing the OHPA’s strategic plan

By Paul Cantor

To the Editor:

“The primary mission of the Oak Hills Park Association (OHPA),” according to its recently released strategic plan, “is to become the recognized market leader in providing high quality golf rounds, and practice and golf lesson services to its target market.”

But the Authority was never charged with managing a commercial enterprise aimed at serving a targeted market. Rather, the mandate it was given was to manage Oak Hills Park in the interest of all Norwalk taxpayers. Hence, the current OHPA’s strategic plan marks it as a rogue elephant wholly at odds with the purpose for which the Authority was established.

It is not surprising, therefore, that the plan calls for construction of a 36-bay, 270-yard long driving range in Oak Hills Park despite the fact that Norwalk taxpayers roundly rejected a similar plan years ago. The authority contends that the driving range will help it cover the costs of the money-losing 18-hole golf course it manages.

But for at least four reasons, that is unlikely to be the case. First, as The Hour pointed out in an editorial, Oak Hills is “not the most accessible location. Driving ranges on major highways succeed because there is considerable traffic passing by.” Second, competition from four other “practice ranges” in its “target market” (Smith Richardson in Fairfield, Long Shore in Westport, Sterling Farms in Stamford and Griff Harris in Greenwich) would diminish its financial prospects. Third, a large commercial driving range with its high, ugly nets would make the golf course less attractive and drive many golfers away.

Nevertheless, as its strategic plan makes clear, the OHPA is determined to follow through with its plan to allow a relatively unknown and untested private firm, Total Driving Range Solutions (TDRS), to construct and operate a large commercial driving range in Oak Hills Park. How much will TDRS pay the OHPA and by extension taxpayers in the form of rent and a share of the driving range’s gross revenues? Strikingly, the strategic plan does not say. So the answer, we may suppose, is not much if anything at all.

Hence, if the OHPA’s strategic plan is given the go ahead, taxpayers can expect the Authority to come back to them again and again year after year for more money to cover the operating and maintenance costs of the 18-hole golf course. Why? Because due to the decrease in demand to play 18 holes of golf, green fees no longer cover those costs.

Is there a win-win solution to this problem? Yes. In fact there is a win-win-win-win solution. But the rogue Authority, blind to its mandate, won’t even consider it. The solution is to reduce the size of the golf course to nine holes and devote the land freed up as a result to activities enjoyed by non-golfers. A nine-hole golf course is less expensive to maintain and golfers who prefer 18holes could simply go around twice.

Of course, that means the OHPA won’t ever pay back the millions of dollars in loans that it was granted by taxpayers and had to restructure twice. But if the money-losing 18-hole golf course is not reduced in size, not only will the loans not be paid back but the OHPA will be hitting up taxpayers again and again for ever more money to maintain the course.

Still there would be nothing wrong with that if most Norwalk taxpayers wanted the OHPA to become the recognized market leader in providing high-quality taxpayer subsidized golf rounds and practice and golf lesson services to well-heeled golfers from Westport, Wilton, New Canaan, as well as Norwalk. But most Norwalk taxpayers wouldn’t be happy to know their money was being used to reduce the cost of playing golf on an 18-hole course for golfers who make up less than 11% of the residents of the city. And when they found out that 80% of those golfers were men whose more than $90,000 average yearly income exceeded their own they’d be even less happy.

Shouldn’t the rapidly diminishing minority of golfers in the city be thankful, therefore, if even in the face of the well-documented decrease in demand to play 18-holes of golf taxpayers were willing to devote a significant amount of land in Oak Hills Park to a nine- hole course? Think about it. A multi-use public park is needed near the center of Norwalk and Norwalk Community College because the only other multi-use public park in Norwalk, Cranberry Park, is on the outskirts of the city and not readily accessible to most Norwalk’s taxpayers. And a multi-use park that served the needs of most golfers is what Oak Hills could be turned into if the golf course was reduced in size.

Who then, besides these golfers, would be winners? First, taxpayers who would not be burdened with the $4,000,000 in additional expenses called for by the OHPA strategic plan. Second, environmentalists concerned about the large amount of water and poisonous chemicals required by the 18-hole course. Third, all those living near Oak Hills Park who don’t want to see the residential quality of their neighborhood undermined by a large commercial driving range constructed with the goal of generating income to maintain an 18-hole money-losing golf course. And fourth, everyone in the city who favors any of the many activities that a 144-acre park might make available to them if it was not primarily devoted to serving the interest of a tiny, well-off minority whose mantra is you pay, we play.

Paul Cantor

Comments

44 responses to “Letter: Parsing the OHPA’s strategic plan”

  1. Kirbster

    Hopefully, Mr. Cantor will be able to make it to the pristine acreage at the golf course today so he can take a hike.

  2. Suzanne

    Great letter, Paul. Very clear and on point.

  3. the donut hole

    We get it. You hate the golf course and you think it should be your personal taxpayer funded and maintained nature preserve abutting your property. Damned be anybody else’s wishes or desires.

  4. The 800lb. gorilla in the room is Paul Cantor’s own investment – his home. He is afraid that any positive improvement to Oak Hills Park will create more traffic on Fillow Street and therefore reduce the value of his house. But rather than discussing the real issues, this Norwalk Community College Economics professor makes up unsupported financial facts and twists the truth. I give Paul Cantor’s thesis a failing grade.

  5. Suzanne

    RWetzel, Please explain the unverified financial facts in this letter. Also, if the Course became smaller with activities available to more people in Norwalk, there would be more cars not fewer. How does that explain your theory about lowered housing values in the area? I haven’t found that 800-lb gorilla yet – just because Mr. Cantor lives across from the PARK (and please check the OHPA’s moniker and what it stands for – is not merely a golf course), does not change the verifiable facts of his article. And, finally, it’s just a golf course with great potential to be something more and that’s it – it is not poverty, it is not lack of education, it is not a destructive earthquake, it is none of the disastrous things that affect this world. Keep it in perspective: it is a beautiful place everyone is fortunate to have in Norwalk. It is a shame everyone cannot use it.

  6. the donut hole

    Based on Suzanne’s logic, I should be able to hit golf balls on the beach or up at Cranbury Park. After all these are parks for everyone, right?

  7. Let’s see, a nine hole course is not workable and would be not profitable – not for the number of rounds that is played a year at Oak Hills. This only works for a much smaller population. $90,000 average income of Oak Hills golfers, please where did that number come from. “Large, commercial driving range”? 36 bays is not large. Where did $4,000,000 come from? I was at the meeting last week I never heard $4,000,000. Money-losing? Maybe a couple years ago, but this fiscal year is on track to make a small profit. So Susan, who has no last name, it’s unbecoming for a Norwalk Community College economics professor to make up facts and figures. If you and Cantor would stick to the facts you might find an audience.

  8. cc-rider

    If converting to nine holes is such a great idea why can’t Cantor point to any other golf course in New England that has successfully (meaning stayed financially viable) done it?

  9. Suzanne

    RWetzel and cc rider: I am merely commenting on the contents and logic of the letter and believe the claims are substantiated. I believe the $4,000,000 number is preemptive – that is, it stands for the money owed from previous loans to the OHPA and the possible financing that will be required of the new driving range. cc rider, good question and RWetzel take note! I would also like to see comparative data regarding the nine hole concept with a like scenario, that is a public course conversion with similar city demographics. No one can make a claim that a nine hole Course would be unsuccessful or a success unless there is data to substantiate it. Actually, if you look it up, 36 bays does constitute a large range although there are larger. For Norwalk and comparing it to Stamford’s which is similar in size, I would consider this facility to be substantial. the donut hole, silly you. By your logic, we should be able to walk all about the Course without interference just like at Cranbury Park or the beach if golf should be allowed in those places. Circular logic. As to the salary data of the golfers, you are right. I do not know where that comes from. Perhaps Paul can explain?

  10. cc-rider

    From what I know of the range proposal there is no financing by OHPA. The whole point of this exercise is that the bidder is paying for the build out of the range. When their contract is up, the town has a driving range free and clear.

    You are not going to find any data on golf course reducing the number of holes because it is an idea that has only been floated about when talking about building new nine hole courses and not about reducing the number of holes at existing courses.

  11. Joe Optimistic

    RWetzel – Of course Mr. Cantor wants positive improvement around his home don’t we all including you? To say that he is wrong in his intentions because of this is ridiculous. I assume you play golf and obviously your intention is to have the golf course improved correct? so should we say your intentions are wrong because you believe in that?

    Mr. Cantor points out many good facts in his letter, some which I agree with, and some I don’t. He is entitled to his opinion whether or not it is skewed towards his house value as you are to yours because it is skewed towards your golf game.

    One point I totally agree with him on is how do you let a firm who is virtually unknown(TDRS)with absolutely NO experience, finagle their way on to TOWN OWNED PARK PROPERTY and let them bulldoze, build a potentially(doubtful)for profit business and possibly destroy acres of land just because they call themselves “experts” and have a pretty website?

    I know how to swim, can ice skate a little, have played mini golf a few times and would like to try skydiving. Hey OHPA, I sure I can build a swimming pool, saw it done on TV once, I also know how to make ice, have a putter and have been in a plane, how about letting me build at Oak Hills? I’m sure I will make you lots of $$$! Oh and by the way, it will only take me a couple of days to get a fancy looking website!

  12. jocko

    I’m curious if people would be aligned with a 9 hole golf course if the remaining property would be used for affordable housing.
    Be careful what you wish for.

  13. Suzanne

    Actually, cc rider, I have read a number of articles referencing golf course reduction to nine or twelve holes: a couple that come to mind are located in the Seattle and I think Denver areas. (I am obviously not reading those articles at the moment.) There is substantial data out there that I will not research but I wish those making arguments for this alteration to the Course would that supports 18 to nine hole reductions. As I recall (and, again, this is necessarily fuzzy because I read these reports mid-last year)these reductions were not for private but for public courses that could no longer be financed. This “hard stuff” data really needs to be a part of any discussion about this idea for Norwalk. Without the numbers, again in a like demographic, the campaign to reduce cannot be substantiated. A desire for a multi-use park is a big deal when talking about dividing a large stretch of land when land is so precious. It cannot be driven by emotion but rather sound reasoning and factual information that can support the change. Wouldn’t it be lovely? is nice but not enough in considering the “cut down” of an established and historic course. Financial arguments could be made but I understand the skepticism surrounding them where the OHPA is concerned.

  14. cc-rider

    Suzanne- I would speculate you are reading is a lot opinions by golf industry people who are looking to make an interesting article. Again, you are not going to find any real data because there is not a widespread amount of courses reducing their number of holes. Wouldn’t you think if it was happening, you could find one example in all of New England or the Metro NYC area?

  15. Paul Cantor

    R Wetzel: If you go to Oak Hills Park web site http://www.oakhillsgc.com/ you will find the Oak Hills Park Authority Strategic Plan.

    On page 4 of the plan is the following statement: “we project that the costs associated with implementation of our plan will be…. $3,950,000.

    The $90,000 income figure also comes from the OHPA’s strategic plan. There you will find on page 33 a table indicating that the average household income of all U.S. golfers is $93,300.

    In answer to CC-Rider here is what Jack Nicklaus had to say on YouTube.

    “Shorten the Game”
    Jack Nicklaus
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xOLnVAs6CnU

    “Since 2006 we’ve lost 20 percent of the women and 20 percent of the kids in the game of golf. I mean that’s a horrible statistic…If that’s the case, why? Well why is because it takes too long. I mean my kids don’t play golf anymore or very little because they are spending time on the weekends with their kids playing little league, soccer, lacrosse, football, basketball, whatever it might be. They’re not playing golf. Those soccer games and those lacrosse games they take up a field for an hour, an hour and a half. So we’ve got to have a game that takes that amount of time. Everybody’s got 18 holes. Why [can’t it] be two nines holes. Why can’t it be two nines? [Or] three sixes. Everybody’s in a cart anyway. What difference does it make…You’ve got to figure out how to keep people in this stupid game. And the only way I know to go about it is to shorten the game from what it is.”

    Also note the following:

    “Nicklaus says the length of time it takes to play an 18-hole round is alienating many golfers, particularly youngsters who are used to playing most athletic contests in 2-3 hours. http://content.usatoday.com/communities/gameon/post/2011/05/jack-nicklaus-12-hole-rounds-of-golf/1#.UtQKkWRDtZg

    And here is a bit of additional information for you:

    Fairways Under Fire:
    Are Little-Used Public Golf Courses Worth the Space?
    By Peter Harnik and Ryan Donahue
    Landscape Architecture Magazine, June 2011
    http://archives.asla.org/lamag/lam11/june/parks.html

    “’Continuing to invest in golf courses that are not financially self-sustaining at the cost of other urban recreation is completely unjustifiable,’ says Meredith Thomas, the director of San Francisco’s Neighborhood Parks Council. In cities with tight budgets and little open space parks are expected to serve multiple demands in small spaces. Golf courses, in contrast, says Thomas, are ‘pretty much the definition of sprawl as far as parkland goes,’ especially since ‘other forms of recreation like field sports and off-leash dog areas are bursting at the seams.’

    The game of golf has never been an efficient use of space (hence the development of miniature golf), but in the past it could be argued that it was still a worthwhile public investment that subsidized a system’s other parks through green fees. No longer. Golf’s popularity is not keeping up with population growth nor with the explosion in the number of private golf venues; it’s also losing out to other self-directed activities like running and cycling. In the late 1980s, the average course saw about 40,000 rounds a year; that number has fallen to about 33,000 today. A 2004 study of the recreation facility desires of San Francisco households found that golf ranked 16th out of 19 amenities; highest on the wish list were trails, pools, and community gardens.

    The decline of public golf would be less taxing if courses were low-cost facilities. But many, predicated on the assumption of growing affluence and participation, were designed to compete with the private sector. They require a full-time staff, constant maintenance, and often a fleet of electric carts, a shop, and a restaurant. It is the triple combination of moribund rates of participation, high costs and sprawling land use that is putting the squeeze on public, urban golf courses.”

    Luxury golfing: The appeal of the nine-hole course
    By Charles Kerkow On October 8, 2013
    http://www.sportinglife360.com/index.php/luxury-golfing-the-appeal-of-the-nine-hole-course-12-15122/

    There are many courses consisting of only nine holes that are just as much, if not more, of a challenge than the traditional eighteen. Some of these smaller nine-hole courses can be great fun, even the most experienced players…These courses are attractive to many players for a number of reasons, one being playtime. Where an eighteen-hole course may take three to four hours to play, the shorter nine-hole courses only average about one and a half to two hours allowing players to “squeeze in” a round when short on time…Many small towns around the world host nine hole golf courses…When a player is just getting started in the world of golf, a smaller, less threatening course may be more comfortable. When the starter and the maintenance man are one in the same, the amount of pressure seems to be less. Another great advantage to learning on a smaller course is the second round option. Any nine-hole course can become an eighteen simply by playing a second round. For the less experienced player, this allows them to play the same hole twice, thus learning from and adjusting for their mistakes. Whether you are a highly skilled, experienced player or a beginner, playing the smaller nine-hole courses can be rewarding for many different reasons. For over a century they have been in existence, and for good reason. If you are looking to play a quick game or just a new golfing experience, a nine-hole course may be the solution. Remember, just because a course has eighteen holes does not mean it is a better course. Many seasoned golfers can tell you of a nine-holer that was, “the best course they ever played.”

    A Return to the Nine-Hole Round
    By Bill Pennington
    The New York Times, May 5, 2013

    “Less than 30 years ago, nearly half of the golf courses in America had nine holes. There was no stigma to that number. The nine-hole golf round was as common as a slice off the first tee…In America, most of the early golf courses were nine-holers. The first United States Open, in 1895, was played on a nine-hole course….if the five-hour round has not disappeared, some golfers have, walking away because they do not have time for a round of 18. To the rescue: the nine-hole round. This week, the P.G.A. of America has teamed with the United States Golf Association in an initiative spearheaded by Golf Digest called Time for Nine. The magazine’s June issue, which comes out Tuesday, starts a campaign for nine-hole play. Golf Digest plans to create a list of nine-hole courses that will focus on promoting nine-hole rounds for men, women, juniors and families on layouts that make it easy to do so. ‘As an industry, we must work to promote the nine-hole round as a complete and enjoyable golf experience, consistent with the traditions of playing the game,’ Glen D. Nager, the president of the United States Golf Association, said. And for people worried about their handicaps, the U.S.G.A. wants golfers to know that nine-hole rounds are fully compatible with its handicap system. There is no doubt that the push to promote nine-hole rounds reflects a reality that most of us now work longer hours and have more demands on our weekend recreational time. As Tarde said: “Every other recreation, it seems, takes more or less two hours: movies, dinner, cocktail parties, tennis, bowling, going to the gym. If golf were invented today, it would be a nine-hole game’… Golf is many things to many people, as it should be. But we can keep more people in our flock, and attract others to join us, if we endorse the most simple, natural and unpretentious forms of participation. Inviting people to come out for an easy, quick nine holes is a good way to start.”

    The Case for 12-to-15-Hole Golf
    by Jay Stuller
    http://theaposition.com/jaystuller/golf/88/the-case-for-12-hole-golf

    “‘We need to abandon the principle that a ‘full’ round of golf consists of eighteen holes and get used to the thought that a golf course may have just any number of holes that suits its particular environment’ says Roald, who has run an independent golf course design practice since 2002…a shorter course would require less fertilizer, herbicides and water. But in the spectrum of benefits from a truncated layout, time is by far the most operative word…Roald talks of creating courses that can be played in little more than three hours, which he considers fulfilling and yet not too long. I think 2:45 would be about right, which is coincidentally the length of an average Major League Baseball game…The reduction would immediately reduce maintenance costs, which could enable operators to lower fees…The shortened playing time means more tee times and golfers”

    The case for 9-hole golf courses
    http://www.pitchcare.com/magazine/the-case-for-9-hole-golf-courses.html

    Troon Golf – one of the largest golf operators in the world – has recently stated that they would like more 9-hole courses developed to make the game more attractive and less time-consuming. In 2012, HSBC produced a report entitled, Golf’s 2020 Vision – in which it states the need for golf to be made more attractive for non-golfers, for families, for women and schoolchildren. It also says that 9-hole facilities are the future of golf – quicker rounds and more family-focused…The real answer is to reduce existing 18-hole courses in urban and suburban areas down to 9-holes …Golfers will argue that a 9-hole course is not a full golf course, however, if well designed with imaginative features and hazards, with two distinct tee-boxes per hole, there is the possibility of creating an 18-hole course within a 9-hole course.”

  16. Joe Optimistic

    RWetzel – You say you were at the OHPA meeting, did they not go over that the estimated cost to complete the “strategic plan” is $4,000,000? because that’s what it says in the plan I read online and the contractor is supposed to pony up $2.5 of that, I guess you and I and the rest of the taxpayers are fronting the rest. I don’t play golf so I won’t get any benefit from my money but I’m sure you will enjoy my tax dollars the next time you hit your 5 iron.

    By the way, what makes you think they are going to see a profit this fiscal year? You obviously don’t read their financial reports which are still very dismal even after borrowing $150k for you and I last year.

  17. Suzanne

    OK, cc rider, you got me. Here is one article describing the renovation trend to fewer holes than 18 in golf courses. Please note that these are renovations and not new constructions:
    http://www.worldgolf.com/column/12-hole-golf-courses-11475.htm

    Here’s another, again courses under financial pressure having to down size: http://www.watchnewspapers.com/view/full_story/23757491/article-Black-Canyon-Golf-Club-Cuts-to-Nine-Holes-Next-Year

    From the European Institute of Golf making a case for cutting down the size of golf courses:

    http://www.eigca.org/Article/EIGCA20092.ink

    There are many more examples with a simple Google search but that is what I can find easily and quickly for now. I still believe the real data should come from the Friends of Oak Hills as they are the most vocal about altering the Course and creating a park for everyone (the latter I agree with, the former not so much.) I am not sure how relevant it is to insist on course data from New England or the tri-state area exclusively if similar weather patterns, public entities and use exist in other states. In other words, an apples to apples comparison could definitely be selective areas from throughout the nation and Europe that experience similar weather patterns, a decided impact on the number of rounds played.

  18. Suzanne

    Paul, thank you for the references and for clarifying the financial information quoted in your article. It is very helpful.

  19. cc-rider

    Quoting Nicklaus means absolutely nothing to me! Reading his article sure as hell isn’t a compelling reason to shorten the course. Do you change your diet after reading every health related magazine article you read? He is giving his 2 cents worth- nothing more or less. People ask his opinion on anything related to golf. How many times do I have to say this- people all over the country are not reducing the number of holes at their golf courses! They are either open for business or close entirely becoming homes, turn into cow pasture, etc. If it was such a great idea then you would think there would be examples closer than Europe to point to Suzanne!

  20. Suzanne

    cc rider, validate your statements. I gave you the European reference as just one example of the world wide impact of the downturn in number of golf rounds played and the subsequent recommendation to reduce golf course size. I explained that I was doing a “quick check” not a comprehensive nor exhaustive research project. I knew you would reply in this way because statements are often made on an emotional level by those who do not want to see Oak Hills altered rather than cogent, clarifying and researched examples. Do your homework. Nicklaus is often quoted because, unlike most retired golfers, he is one of a handful who has an extensive and very experienced design firm building courses around the world. He is an active member of a design team which also includes his son. Nicklaus, in other words, is not only one of the all time greats of golf and knows the game, he knows how to build courses and knows the trends. Whether you like it or not, that makes him expert in the knowledge of golf course size, play and construction that, just like any other profitable business, it is his business to know or he wouldn’t have one.

  21. cc-rider

    No one is disputing the fact that Nicklaus is a legend. You are missing the greater point. If you asked more than one legends of the game the same exact question, you would likely get all different answers. What would that do to the argument for reducing holes then?

    Seeing that you or anyone here can point to one successful example in anywhere near our geographic area I rest my case.

  22. Suzanne

    Are you reading my entries at all? Nicklaus is not just “one of the greats”, he is also a successful businessman at course design that makes his opinions salient to this topic because it his business to know the trends and how to build for the constituency he serves. That is his GOOD business model and he is saying reducing hole numbers is a wise move in this golf market place. Secondly, it would be disingenuous to limit the conversion of courses to New England only and, what difference would it make if it was happening in Seattle where play is limited by extensive rain fall or Denver where winters are harsh and long? Similar weather which would affect golf rounds is a fair comparison. Your case is not “rested” until you find the information you are looking for. I believe Mr. Cantor and I have done enough of the homework for you.

  23. cc-rider

    Suzanne- I worked as a golf professional for over ten years so save the dissertation on Nicklaus. I still work in the business and am an expert on golf. You and Cantor has done nothing but quote from people and provide google searches. These articles are nothing more than opinions because the recommendations in said articles have NOT been done by the industry. How many thousands of golf courses are there in the USA and you are having difficulty finding one relevant case study that supports your position. You want to say that you are providing proof but the reality is that you all have no idea what would happen to the finances of Oak Hills if reduced to nine holes. At this point, the only thing provided is a IDEA and not a plan. No one would go along with a plan whose main reasoning is that Jack Nicklaus thinks it is a good idea….

  24. Suzanne

    Golf Digest is part of the industry. SportingLife360 is part of the golf industry. The New York Times is a very reputable source of information (in case you haven’t read it lately.) World Golf as well as the ASLA all are part of the industry. The USGA is part of the Golf Industry. Please note from article above: “This week, the P.G.A. of America has teamed with the United States Golf Association in an initiative spearheaded by Golf Digest called Time for Nine.” Read the article. I think you will agree that this is an initiative to reduce the number of holes at golf courses. The financial incentive to prove whether a driving range will work at Oak Hills or the reduction of holes being proposed is for the OHPA to provide the data to make their case. I have asked for more information in this forum from TDRS to show their experience at driving range building with up front costs in a like, public golf course setting with like demographics in terms of profits after the range is established. Proof that what appears to be very optimistic figures are true figures based upon experience or “pie in the sky” wishful thinking. Since you have been a golf professional for a whole ten years, perhaps you could get that information and share it with the taxpayers who have footed the bill for the OHPA long enough. Railing on quotes by Jack Nicklaus belies the extensive additional information Mr. Cantor has provided. Being a golf professional does not mean you know the national trends, the demographics of those trends nor the financial outcomes of retaining an 18 hole course where not enough rounds are played to support it. Again, Mr. Rider, being a golf professional does not make you an expert. Do your homework and bring on the data. Otherwise, you are just among many of the golfers who want to continue to play a very beautiful course, I agree, but on the public dime with which I disagree. It is not a private club and Norwalk should not be the trough for a failing park. Your repeated reactions as opposed to solid data doe not hold water. If you are the professional you say you are, find out for yourself about the information Mr. Cantor has provided. You don’t like the answer, I suspect, so you do not read it.

  25. cc-rider

    Suzanne- list an email and I will send you my linkedin resume so you can at least have accurate info before you tell me I don’t know what I am talking about or what little experience I don’t have.

  26. In Cantor’s editorial, he suggested the average income of the Oak Hills golfer was $90,000. Those were national averages, why can’t Cantor be accurate? And that figure includes private country clubs.

    Why is Cantor ignoring the “Great Recession” and wanting to blame golf in general for the decline in play? (psst..there might be a turn around) Did you know there was a decline in enrollment since 2009 at the state’s community colleges and the four Connecticut State Universities? Should we use this statistic to judge NCC’s performance? or Cantors? (source:http://ctmirror.org/enrollment-declines-again-connecticut-state-universities-and-community-colleges/) Using Cantor’s logic, maybe we should consider closing down NCC and maybe 2 State Universities.

    Are you ignoring this statement in the presentation?
    “While not readily evident in FYE 2013 numbers the OHPA is substantially ahead of plan for FYE 2014 as the course is in the best condition since its inception and we are over $70,000 ahead in revenue over last year for the first six months of the current fiscal period. In addition, Oak Hills is up almost 2,100 rounds for the same period. ”

    And why exactly are you pretending this is the only park in town. This is from https://my.norwalkct.org/NorwalkFacts.htm

    With over 1,400 acres of park and shoreline land available to residents, including the Stewart B McKinney Wildlife Refuge which is part of the Norwalk Islands, there is plenty of room for everyone to have a reason to enjoy the great outdoors. The City has dozens of municipal tennis and basketball courts, soccer and baseball fields, the Oak Hills Public Golf Course, miles of walking, biking or skating paths and, of course, open space for the pleasure of it. Come winter, the inland ponds and fields are great for skating and cross-country skiing. Passive open space property provides quiet walking use in season. There are 125 acres of woodland trails in Cranbury Park alone.

    Why haven’t Paul Cantor, Suzanne, and Joe complained about the cost of running free parks in the city of Norwalk? It’s the elephant in the room.

  27. Joe Optimistic

    Rwetzel:

    Up over $70k in revenue but expenses up just as much if not more! and who cares if your up 2100 rounds if your are charging less money then the year before by running specials and coupons?

    Maybe you should read the financials before going any further on this blog.

  28. Joe Optimistic

    Rwetzel & CC Rider:

    You both have plenty of rebuttals regarding Mr. Cantor’s and Suzanne’s posts but how come no response regarding my questions of Total Driving Range Solutions experience?

  29. Hmmm. Up 70K, Rounds up 2100. How many rounds paid full freight? Joe you’re just as good twisting the facts as Cantor.

  30. Joe Optimistic

    Really no facts to twist, READ THE FINANCIAL REPORT they have less money now then they did this time last year when they borrowed $150K!

    An still no response regarding TDRS experience?

  31. I suggest Joe you talk to Shelly Guyer about OH’s financial position. I have.

    I didn’t know you pointed your TDRS question to me. I’m not thrilled with their presentation. It is flawed and I said so at last weeks meeting. I do think moving the pro shop and administration offices up to the restaurant however makes traffic flow sense and would be a financial plus. Like you, I was surprised that funding was glossed over. However, under the best of conditions, any bond funded improvement would be paid for by Oak Hills Park revenue and no tax dollars would be involved.

    BTW, I also see you haven’t answered my questions.

  32. Joe Optimistic

    Rwetzel:

    Not sure what your questions are, but for your reading enjoyment, I have attached the OHPA financials straight off the City of Norwalk website from the Board of Estimate agenda 3/3/14 showing TOTAL CASH of $62,580.31 at the end of JANUARY 2014 and $59,215.52 and the end of January 2013. If I remember correctly it was February 2013 that the OHPA asked the taxpayers for $150k because they did not have enough money to get through the winter. But maybe with such a mild winter we are having this year they have enough? How long do you think it will be before they come back to the taxpayers for another $150k or more?

    Please click on the following link, scroll down to page 10 and let me know your thoughts, maybe $3k in the bank more then last year is all they need but with ALL of February and March to go it’s really hard to believe and operation as big as a 140 acre golf course with many employees can make it with 8 weeks with 60K. Maybe YOU should ask Mr. Guyer about this?

    http://www.norwalkct.org/ArchiveCenter/ViewFile/Item/7588

  33. Hello Joe, it’s March 12 not January 12. Opening day is only three and half weeks away. I know you want Oak Hills to fail but at least get your dates right.

  34. Joe Optimistic

    R:

    My dates are correct, you have pointed out the obvious, if they only had 60k at the end of JANUARY how much could they possibly have today?

  35. Joe Optimistic

    R:

    BTW I would gladly have updated those financial figures to February but they have been conveniently hidden from the public.

  36. Beth Altman

    When a company that budgets almost 1.7 million in expenses and has 60k in the bank with 2 and a half months to opening day there’s a major $$$ problem here. How many creditors are they holding up payments on ? What good do more players and revenue do for them when spending is up, way up. OHPA you need to watch your spending and get someone with a financial degree on the board.

  37. Joe Optimistic

    Finally! Someone gets my point! And Rwetzel you are completely wrong when you say I want to see Oak Hills fail, nothing would make me happier then to see one of our public parks succeed and have many enjoy, but painting rosy pictures of how wonderful everything is there and how fantastic they are doing is far from the truth looking a the numbers in black and white or should I say in the red?

  38. Suzanne

    Wow! Another elephant in the room? We are going to have an entire herd before this conversation is over. Having read quite a bit on this slow, rainy day about golf trends, golf rounds, golf revenues and the like, the golfing industry is hopeful, and only hopeful, that there might be a bit of a turn around in 2014. Granted, there is no data to confirm this which makes the situation at Oak Hills very unspecial. Rounds down or up, still inadequate revenues, economy at equilibrium, low then high then low again, Oak Hills is grappling with the same difficulties as many public and private courses across the United States, Canada and Europe. Some 18-hole courses, in spite of cc rider’s expert opinion, have been reduced to nine in order to appeal to the “executive course” model while a significant number of new-builds are at nine holes to appeal to “family play”. I think Beth Altman makes a good point as does the financial reports Joe has attached. The only difference is that Oak Hills does not support itself as the charter requires and the taxpayers end up with the cost burden. While there are many public parks with great resources in Norwalk, Oak Hills is chartered to not come under the purview of Parks and Recreation but is required to take care of itself. It has been limping along for years borrowing more and more from the taxpayers. How much are we to anticipate for this year? How is the reorganization of play with the driving range different than the reduction of holes (and based on my reading today, most golfers prefer twelve to nine as do golf managers from a cost effective standpoint) to enable a cost effective course while providing public options for recreation per the charter requirement?

  39. So what is your plan if Oak Hills succeeds in spite of your efforts to kill it?

  40. cc-rider

    How many courses in 2014 were reduced from 18 to 9 Suzanne? Put on a number on it to enlighten everyone here.

  41. Suzanne

    Gee, cc rider, 2014 really hasn’t happened yet so I can’t help you there. RWetzel, asking for fiscal responsibility is not a plan to kill anything. I love Oak Hills, have played it many times, front and back, and think it is beautiful. But, as I have said often, sound financial management is due and its retention in total should not depend upon the taxpayers of Norwalk. That is not what is required of the Course by Charter and it is not what is required of the constituency.

  42. Beth Altman

    Everyone needs to be on the same page here. Going to 9 holes is NOT the solution, building this range WILL NOT do it either. Let’s be fair, this board is trying it’s best but is always being crucified by some. Why not all work together. Lets keep the 18 holes eliminte this plan for a range and get the finances back in order as it once was. Oak Hills was never in the public eye until a few years ago and can’t seem to get out of it now. OHPA needs to come clean, if you need more $$$ to get through the winter ( and looking at the P&L you do) tell us now, work with the taxpayers don’t hide from it, this will only make things harder on yourself. Maybe someone new to manage the park and maybe it might just bring it back as it once was, a golf course that golfers did support and taxpayers did not. No one wants OH to fail.

  43. Joe Optimistic

    Rwetzel:

    I am putting in absolutely NO effort at all to killing Oak Hills, the OHPA seems to be doing that all on it’s own and I am HOPING that Oak Hills will succeed, but that’s the problem HOPING and crazy multi million dollar schemes are not the answer, stop the spending is the best start to being financially responsible.

    Ms. Altman has the complete grasp on the situation, STOP trying to fool everyone about the finances, STOP with all the crazy schemes to get out of the red and concentrate on staying out of the news.

  44. Paul Cantor

    Beth,

    If the green fees paid by golfers do not cover the costs of the 18-hole golf course in Oak Hills is it in the interest of taxpayers to seek some other means to cover those costs? And if so is there any limit to the amount of money taxpayers should devote to covering the difference between the revenues obtained from those who play golf at Oak Hills and the cost of maintaining and operating the course? Those are the basic issues that taxpayers face. No one is crucifying the Authority. In fact a good case could be made for the converse. The current Authority and many golfers are attempting to paint those who object to efforts to construct a driving range as nay-sayers who hate golf, golfers, and the golf course.

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